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Thursday, January 08, 2015

Cruising the Web

Ezra Klein is exactly right. We shouldn't allow these murderers to get away with claiming that their murders were about some cartoons. This was an attack, not only on these journalists, but on freedom itself. Such attacks threaten all of us. Jim Geraghty ponders the frightening thought that terrorists will move more to these sorts of attacks rather than bombings. I've always feared that shooting up a few malls could do more to terrorize a country and paralyze commerce than blowing up an airplane.

George Packer at the New Yorker has a better response.
The murders today in Paris are not a result of France’s failure to assimilate two generations of Muslim immigrants from its former colonies. They’re not about French military action against the Islamic State in the Middle East, or the American invasion of Iraq before that. They’re not part of some general wave of nihilistic violence in the economically depressed, socially atomized, morally hollow West—the Paris version of Newtown or Oslo. Least of all should they be “understood” as reactions to disrespect for religion on the part of irresponsible cartoonists.

They are only the latest blows delivered by an ideology that has sought to achieve power through terror for decades. It’s the same ideology that sent Salman Rushdie into hiding for a decade under a death sentence for writing a novel, then killed his Japanese translator and tried to kill his Italian translator and Norwegian publisher. The ideology that murdered three thousand people in the U.S. on September 11, 2001. The one that butchered Theo van Gogh in the streets of Amsterdam, in 2004, for making a film. The one that has brought mass rape and slaughter to the cities and deserts of Syria and Iraq. That massacred a hundred and thirty-two children and thirteen adults in a school in Peshawar last month. That regularly kills so many Nigerians, especially young ones, that hardly anyone pays attention.

Because the ideology is the product of a major world religion, a lot of painstaking pretzel logic goes into trying to explain what the violence does, or doesn’t, have to do with Islam. Some well-meaning people tiptoe around the Islamic connection, claiming that the carnage has nothing to do with faith, or that Islam is a religion of peace, or that, at most, the violence represents a “distortion” of a great religion. (After suicide bombings in Baghdad, I grew used to hearing Iraqis say, “No Muslim would do this.”) Others want to lay the blame entirely on the theological content of Islam, as if other religions are more inherently peaceful—a notion belied by history as well as scripture.

A religion is not just a set of texts but the living beliefs and practices of its adherents. Islam today includes a substantial minority of believers who countenance, if they don’t actually carry out, a degree of violence in the application of their convictions that is currently unique. Charlie Hebdo had been nondenominational in its satire, sticking its finger into the sensitivities of Jews and Christians, too—but only Muslims responded with threats and acts of terrorism. For some believers, the violence serves a will to absolute power in the name of God, which is a form of totalitarianism called Islamism—politics as religion, religion as politics. “Allahu Akbar!” the killers shouted in the street outside Charlie Hebdo. They, at any rate, know what they’re about.
And if we're to gain ground in this war against everything our society stands for - freedom of thought, speech, and religion, we need to be clear on what and whom it is we're fighting.

How typical that the New York Times' first concern seems to be about a potential backlash against Muslims in Europe instead of a worry about native-born Muslims in Europe becoming radicalized and wreaking terror on European shores. Potential discrimination against Muslims is more concerning than actual terrorism.

Matt Welch responds to the newest way the modern world responds to the terrorism against Charlie Hebdo.
One of the spontaneous social-media reactions to the Charlie Hebdo massacre today was the Twitter hashtag #JeSuisCharlie ("I am Charlie"). It's an admirable sentiment, resonant with the classic post-9/11 Le Monde cover "Nous sommes tous Americains." It's also totally inaccurate.

If we—all of us, any of us—were Charlie Hebdo, here are some of the things that we might do:

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who knows whereof she speaks, writes today on how to answer the murders in Paris.
How we respond to this attack is of great consequence. If we take the position that we are dealing with a handful of murderous thugs with no connection to what they so vocally claim, then we are not answering them. We have to acknowledge that today’s Islamists are driven by a political ideology, an ideology embedded in the foundational texts of Islam. We can no longer pretend that it is possible to divorce actions from the ideals that inspire them.

This would be a departure for the West, which too often has responded to jihadist violence with appeasement. We appease the Muslim heads of government who lobby us to censor our press, our universities, our history books, our school curricula. They appeal and we oblige. We appease leaders of Muslim organizations in our societies. They ask us not to link acts of violence to the religion of Islam because they tell us that theirs is a religion of peace, and we oblige.

What do we get in return? Kalashnikovs in the heart of Paris. The more we oblige, the more we self-censor, the more we appease, the bolder the enemy gets.

There can only be one answer to this hideous act of jihad against the staff of Charlie Hebdo. It is the obligation of the Western media and Western leaders, religious and lay, to protect the most basic rights of freedom of expression, whether in satire on any other form. The West must not appease, it must not be silenced. We must send a united message to the terrorists: Your violence cannot destroy our soul.

Mitch McConnell has found his Democratic friends. This is a sign of McConnell's skills - he can build coalitions with more centrist Democrats, something that Reid never worked on with Republicans.
A senior Republican aide said McConnell has reached out to Democratic colleagues, but said the centrists also made an early effort to approach him.

After Republicans captured the Senate in the midterm elections, “some of the first calls to McConnell were from Democrats,” the aide said.

Senate sources say the centrist bloc within the Democratic caucus is key to McConnell’s entire legislative agenda.

“If they can stick together and work for reasonable, rational legislation, [centrist Democrats] will control the balance of power in the Senate,” said former Sen. John Breaux (La.), a Democratic centrist who helped Republicans pass the Bush tax cuts of 2001.

Warner, whom Republicans have identified as a pivotal centrist, said for McConnell to be successful he must be willing to pursue compromises that don’t necessarily win the support of the entire Republican conference.
So McConnell will anger the Ted Cruz wing of the party, but he'll get bipartisan support for important GOP initiatives. Sure, Obama can still veto bill after bill, but the Republicans will be able to point out that he's vetoing bills that have bipartisan support. And the Republicans will be able to pass bill after bill and dispel the myth that they are the ones who are the true obstructionists. If McConnell pulls this off for the next two years, he'll establish himself as quite a different sort of leader than Harry Reid. I've always respected McConnell's skills. He's been waiting to be Majority Leader most of his professional life. I bet he's put a lot of thought into how he wants to lead and the best methods for accomplishing his ends. That's not really the sense I get from the fire eaters in the party.

"Scott Walker just threw some amazing shade at Chris Christie." Of course, it will always be easier for a Packers fan to politically trump a Cowboys fan. What struck me today was how all my 10th graders knew this story. They didn't know anything about the Congress convening yesterday or the revolt against John Boehner, but Chris Christie hugging Jerry Jones - that they knew! And they had definite opinions on how bad that was. The Cowboys haven't been champions in these kids' lifetimes, but they still resent them. They've been carefully taught.

Walker is sounding more and more like he's a candidate. He's setting up an organization and will probably be making an announcement soon.

Nate Silver explains why Chris Christie's electoral chances in 2016 are quite overrated. He's too moderate. In fact, Silver judges him as less conservative than Jon Huntsman and we know how well Huntsman went over. And he's quite a bit less conservative than Jeb Bush who is being characterized as being too moderate to win the primaries. He can't argue that he's more electable. He wouldn't win his home state so there goes his supposed blue-state appeal. And, fair or not, bridgegate tarnished his glow. And perhaps most damaging,
He probably lacks the discipline to win the “invisible primary.” The candidates who survive the early stage of the invisible primary tend to be those who avoid making news when they don’t need to. Donors and other influential Republicans won’t want to nominate a candidate who will risk blowing a general election because of a gaffe or scandal that hits at the wrong time.

So, what to make of something like Christie having been spotted in a luxury box in Arlington, Texas, on Sunday, where he joined Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones ­­to watch the Cowboys’ 24-20 comeback win over the Detroit Lions? (Unlike certain politicians, Christie doesn’t seem to have mastered the art of rooting for a team from a swing state.) It seemed like a silly controversy until it was revealed that a company co-owned by the Cowboys was recently awarded a contract by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Whether there’s actual impropriety or just the appearance of it, it was a dumb place for Christie to be seen if he’s contemplating a presidential bid. A presidential campaign is a long and mostly dull thing, and reporters chase down the serious and silly stories alike.
I was more turned off at his shouting at a heckler to "sit down and shut up." I want a candidate who can keep his cool, especially when faced with hecklers. If Christie were the candidate, we can just imagine how the Democrats would have him trailed by hecklers to try to spark his temper. And he's demonstrated that he doesn't have the self-control to keep that temper.

Charles C. W. Cooke knows history and that is why he know how stupid the knocks that any of our recent Congresses are the "worst Congress ever." Such critics just betray their own historical ignorance and hyperbolic partisanship. Such critics think that gridlock that prevents a bill from being passed is just unbearable.
As in the world of medicine, in which all doctors much first promise primum non nocere (“first, do no harm”), I consider a bias toward inertia to be a considerable blessing in national politics, in which realm the majority of damage is done not by omission but by commission. In times past, American Congresses have engaged in direct attacks on the freedom of speech (the Fifth Congress passed the Alien and Sedition Acts, the 65th the 1917 Espionage Act and the 1918 Sedition Act); they have provided for the entrenchment of human bondage and for the capture of escaped slaves (the 33rd Congress passed the Kansas–Nebraska Act, the 31st passed the Fugitive Slave Act); and they have quite literally ordered the removal of Native Americans from their homelands (in 1830, the 21st Congress passed the Indian Removal Act).
If the Republicans pass bills in this new Congress and Obama vetoes those bills - does that qualify as being the "worst Congress ever"? If so, we'll have more evidence that the pejorative only passes to Congresses that don't pass bills that liberals approve.

So 23 years later, the Associated Press woke up to their own hypocrisy.
The Associated Press has removed an image of Andres Serrano's 1987 photograph "Piss Christ" from its image library following Wednesday's attack against the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

"It’s been our policy for years that we refrain from moving deliberately provocative images. It is fair to say we have revised and reviewed our policies since 1989," AP spokesperson Erin Madigan told POLITICO, referring to the year the AP first posted the photograph.

Until today, the AP's policy allowed for Serrano's photograph, which depicts a statue of Christ submerged in urine and has repeatedly caused controversy when exhibited. "Piss Christ" was once vandalized, and both Serrano and gallery owners have received death threats over the years.

Following Wednesday's attack, the photo has been replaced on the AP's website with a note that reads, "Oops! This image is not part of your portfolio. Please contact customer support."

The AP was one of several news organizations to either blur or crop photos featuring a Charlie Hebdo cartoon depicting the Islamic prophet Mohammed. In an email earlier today, AP spokesperson Paul Colford cited the “longstanding policy” as its reason for not showing the cartoons.

Both the cropping of the Hebdo cartoons and the decision to remove Serrano's photo have been interpreted by many as a capitulation to the attackers' efforts to limit the freedom of expression. Though there [sic] identity is as yet unknown, the masked gunmen are believed to be Islamic terrorists.

One conservative writes about what he's learned once he switched providers and didn't get Fox News anymore. Like me, he didn't miss Sean Hannity or Bill O'Reilly.
Both MSNBC and CNN are far more one-sided than I ever realized. Other than “Morning Joe,” they simply do not allow dissenting voices on their daytime programming. Anytime there is a story that needs a political comment, CNN will have a single has-been Democrat member of Congress. When MSNBC wants a variety of viewpoints, they will range from the Huffington Post on the Right to Mother Jones on the Left. Nobody ever disagrees with one another on these shows. It is really extraordinary.

Now, I will concede that Fox tilts Right and the liberal voice is usually outnumbered by conservatives, but at least there is an alternative point of view. That makes for much more interesting television.

But it isn’t just the commentary. CNN ran a feature about the ten biggest stories of 2014, and didn’t even mention the midterm elections. Like it never even happened.

Jonah Goldberg identifies the "dumbest 57 seconds ever on TV" on MSNBC. I'm sure the competition is fierce for that characterization, but this is pretty dumb.

Reason's Lenore Skenazy collates "10 Outrageous 'Zero Tolerance' follies of 2014." These are some flabbergasting stories. What continually strikes me with such stories is how so many schools have surrendered all common sense and the discretionary ability of their administrators.

How politicians' books are MacGuffins.

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