Barack Obama and John Kerry have yet to comment on the death of an American murdered last week by Palestinian terrorists. Ezra Schwartz, an 18-year-old from Sharon, Massachusetts, was spending a year in Israel when terrorists fatally attacked him last Thursday, not far from Jerusalem.
President Obama has commented on the murder of Nohemi Gonzalez, an American murdered in the Paris terror attack, and Anita Datar, an American murdered in the Mali hotel attack.
Obama offered this yesterday in Malaysia:
Today, families in too many nations are grieving the senseless loss of their loved ones in the attacks in France and in Mali. As Americans, we remember Nohemi Gonzalez, who was just 23 years old, a design major from California State University. She was in Paris to pursue her dream of designing innovations that would improve the lives of people around the world. And we remember Anita Datar of Maryland. She’s a veteran of the Peace Corps, a mother to her young son, who devoted her life to helping the world’s poor, including women and girls in Mali, lift themselves up with health and education.
Nohemi and Anita embodied the values of service and compassion that no terrorist can extinguish. Their legacy will endure in the family and friends who carry on their work. They remind me of my daughters, or my mother, who, on the one hand, had their whole life ahead of them, and on the other hand, had devoted their lives to helping other people. And it is worth us remembering when we look at the statistics that there are beautiful, wonderful lives behind the terrible death tolls that we see in these places.
At least State Department spokesman John Kirby, when asked about the murder of the American in Israel, commented on Schwartz's death. "Yeah, thanks. This is what I was looking for. Yeah, thank you for prompting. We do believe the – about the death of Ezra Schwartz, an American citizen from Massachusetts, who was murdered in a terrorist attack on Thursday while in Israel to pursue his studies. Again, we extend our deepest condolences to the victim’s family, friends, and community as well as the family and friends of the four other people killed in yesterday’s tragic events. The Secretary is also concerned about the five other American citizens who are victims of the attacks and wishes each of them a full and complete recovery," Kirby told reporters Friday.
"We continue to condemn in the strongest possible terms these outrageous terrorist attacks. These tragic incidents underscore the importance of taking affirmative steps to restore calm."
Nonetheless, neither the president of the secretary of state and former senator Massachusetts have said anything about the death of this young American victim of terror.
The Washington Examiner's Jim Antle has written a comprehensive piece about the Democrats' war on youth. Antle notes that politicians and pundits on the right have been pointing out ways in which Democrats' policies hurt young people.
Jeb Bush, for example, told the Washington Examiner on the campaign trail in New Hampshire that leaders need to "make sure the next generation isn't saddled with all of our contingent liabilities on their backs."
Marco Rubio, meanwhile, has talked about the need for generational change. "The world is different than it was five years ago, not to mention 50 or 60 years ago," when programs such as Medicare and Social Security were designed, he said in Iowa.
Antle also notes the ages of leaders of each parties, and that Republican leaders from Rubio to Speaker Paul Ryan are substantially younger than their Democratic counterparts.
Furthermore, Democrats' advantage with youth vote seems to be slipping, and their advantage might be attributable to factors other than age.
Yet already there's been noticeable slippage. Obama's margin among the millennials shrank in 2012. An April poll by the Harvard Institute of Politics found that 55 percent of 18-29-year-olds (five points fewer than in 2012) want a Democrat to win the White House in 2016, compared to 40 percent who prefer Republicans.
Some of the generation gap appears attributable to factors other than age. The Harvard poll found that 87 percent of young African-Americans and 68 percent of young Hispanics wanted a Democratic president, while whites in this age group picked a Republican by 53-31 percent, though it's worth noting that younger voter are also less likely to be white. Obama carried young white voters 54-44 percent in 2008 and lost them 44-51 percent in 2012.
Antle breaks down how different issues, including entitlements, Obamacare, and Democrats' economic policies, adversely effect young people, and how these issues poll with young people.
President Barack Obama is beginning to use tougher rhetoric when discussing ISIS. The leader of the free world, today at a press conference at the Ritz Carlton in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, vowed to destory ISIS and to take the land they are currently occupying.
"Prejudice and discrimination helps ISIL and undermines our national security. And so, even as we destroy ISIL on the battlefield -- and we will destroy them -- we will take back land that they are currently in. We will cut off their financing. We will hunt down their leadership. We will dismantle their networks and their supply lines, and we will ultimately destroy them. Even as we are in the process of doing that, we want to make sure that we don't lose our own values and our own principles. And we can all do our part by upholding the values of tolerance and diversity and equality that help keep America strong," Obama said.
"The United States will continue to lead this global coalition. We are intensifying our strategy on all fronts, with local partners on the ground. We are going to keep on rolling back ISIL in Iraq and in Syria, and take out more of their leaders and commanders so that they do not threaten us. And we will destroy this terrorist organization.
"And we’ll keep working with our allies and partners for the opportunity and justice that helps defeat violent extremism. We’ll keep standing up for the human rights and dignity of all people -- because that is contrary to what these terrorists believe. That's part of how we defeat them. And I'm confident we will succeed. The hateful vision of an organization like ISIL is no match for the strength of nations and people around the world who are united to live in security and peace and in harmony."
The remarks came at the top of the press conference -- before questions were asked -- as part of the president's prepared remarks.
At a press conference today at the Ritz Carlton in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, President Obama warned the media not to empower terrorists. The terrorists, he said, are just "a bunch of killers with good social media."
"[T]he message I have is that those of us who are charged with protecting the American people are going to do everything we can to destroy this particular network. Once this network is destroyed -- and it will be -- there may be others that pop up in different parts of the world, and so we're going to have to continue to take seriously how we maintain the infrastructure that we’ve built to prevent this. But it doesn't have to change the fundamental trajectory of the American people. And that we should feel confident about," Obama said in response to a question about whether Americans should feel scared about ISIS.
"And the media needs to help in this. I just want to say -- during the course of this week, a very difficult week, it is understandable that this has been a primary focus. But one of the things that has to happen is how we report on this has to maintain perspective, and not empower in any way these terrorist organizations or elevate them in ways that make it easier for them to recruit or make them stronger.
"They're a bunch of killers with good social media. And they are dangerous, and they’ve caused great hardship to people. But the overwhelming majority of people who go about their business every day, the Americans who are building things, and making things, and teaching, and saving lives as firefighters and as police officers -- they're stronger. Our way of life is stronger. We have more to offer -- we represent 99.9 percent of humanity. And that's why we should be confident that we’ll win."
It is not for an economist to adjudicate between the president of the United States, who feels he is appealing to our better angels by asking our blessing for his plan to grant 10,000 refugees from the Syrian wars entry into our country, and his critics who fear that the wave might include immigrants coming not for refuge but to do us harm, not here to assimilate but to retain the customs and laws that have brought their homelands chaos and penury. The dispute, in short, is between Barack Obama who contends he is following a long-standing, humane American tradition of accepting the world’s tired, poor, huddled masses, and equally well-intentioned congressmen and governors who respond that he is ignoring his first obligation – to keep America and its citizens safe from harm. They add that it is inappropriate to argue that America must not repeat the moral error of turning away Jews who sought to escape Hitler’s death camps by turning away Syrians, among them some pledged to destroy the values fleeing Jews were attempting to come here to enjoy.
But an economist can contribute two things to the debate. The first is a self-evident bit of arithmetic. If the vetting process is as robust as we are led to believe by the president, ignoring the contrary view of its likely effectiveness by the head of the FBI, we can concede that it will be, say 99% effective. Not bad for government work. That means that only 1% of the 10,000 entrants, or 100 applicants, will have slipped through the vetting net. It is estimated that the units that attacked France consisted of somewhere between eight and twenty Islamic terrorists. So even with a robust, almost-but-not-quite fool-proof vetting procedure, we will have admitted between five and eight terrorist units capable of doing to one of our cities what they have done to Paris.
And of course the vetting procedure is unlikely to come close to 99% perfection. One need not be a racist or insensitive to the plight of many refugees to believe that serious jihadis, with their access to stolen and forged documents, will slip through the net. The New York Times says vetting will include review of the applicants’ “histories, family origins, and law enforcement and past travel and immigration records,” information that it just might be difficult to obtain in bomb- and war-ravaged Syria. Or to refuse to give weight to the president’s argument that the bulk of the refugees are harmless women, children and men over the age of sixty. A women was blown up when French police raided the apartment in which the mastermind of the Paris assault was engaged in a shoot-out with the police, women in burkas have attempted to stab Israelis and served as suicide bombers in many of the world’s troubled regions, and very young children have proved dangerous suicide bombers and knife wielders. Men over sixty have not exactly acted as “wiser heads” to restrain inflammatory talk, deter travel of younger men to Syria for training, or provide the cooperation that many police forces have been requesting.
Retailers are having difficulty moving apparel these days. One analyst attributes the groaning shelves and racks to two successive years of warm weather. So retailers’ worries will soon be over: the world’s leaders are about to assemble in Paris to end the trend to global warming, a bigger threat than terror, says Barack Obama. He has as much chance of being believed in the stricken French capital as do retailers who blame their woes on the weather.
The nervousness in the retail sector began when both Macy’s and Nordstrom’s reported less-than-stellar results. Mighty Macy’s, with about 850 stores including the Bloomingdale brand, and one of the best-regarded CEOs in the business, Terry Lundgren, announced that revenues for the quarter ending in October had fallen by 5.2 percent compared with the same period last year, that net income had been cut nearly in half, and that bloated inventories were prompting price cuts. Shares, which since have recovered a bit, plunged 40 percent. The strong dollar that confronted overseas shoppers in Macy’s famous flagship store on Herald Square in New York didn’t make life any cheerier for Mr. Lundgren. The next day, Nordstrom’s, a high-end department store chain, reported a third-quarter slow-down in sales of all categories of goods, in all regions and on online, in both its swanky and off-price chains, with no improvement in sight. The chain’s executives could offer no explanation except that fewer people were buying clothes. Merchandise has been marked down, as have shares, which dropped more than 20 percent in response to a fall of about 40 percent in profits and a reduction in the company’s forecast for full year growth. Dillard’s 330-store chain (third-quarter profit down 17 percent) fared no better.
Walmart did manage a bit of growth in sales, thanks to its new, small-format stores. But operating income fell by 8.8 percent in the third quarter and the company is warning that profits next year will fall as a result of a perfect storm of price cuts; higher wages and benefit costs; increased investment in store up-grades; the strong dollar, which reduces the value of overseas earnings; and belated investments in its online business so that it can compete more successfully with Amazon.
A clue to what is going on in the retail sector is provided by the reports of two very different retailers. TJX, which operates the off-price retail chain T.J. Maxx, a seller of discounted name-brand clothing and home furnishings, reported third-quarter sales and earnings increases that exceeded analysts’ expectations. The discounter’s annual sales are about the same as Macy’s, but its market cap is almost four times that of the Macy’s. And Home Depot chimed in with a report that sales in stores open more than a year rose a healthy 7.3 percent in the third quarter, and that profit for the year would increase in line with the high-end of its forecasts. Some 20 percent of Home Depot’s sales are now made online.
An audience member at a Memphis rally for Hillary Clinton Friday fainted during the Democrat's speech. After Clinton asked for someone to help the supporter, she joked, "I thought it was the talk of Republicans that might have done it."
Democratic presidential candidate Martin O'Malley slagged Hillary Clinton for her foreign policy approach:
"Secretary Clinton leapfrogged over the really the most important aspect and that is human intelligence or the lack there of on the ground. Look a lot of these failings we have gone from one crisis to another without any notion of what are the secondary effects, what’s going to happen after a regime ends or a regime falls. And that's really the critical missing point here," O'Malley said on MSNBC this morning.
"Secretary Clinton has had a lot of experience as Secretary of State but she hasn’t shown an ability to really anticipate what comes next. Honestly as a nation we need to become a lot better at that. We need a much more far seeing foreign policy. We need to be much more collaboratively engaged especially in troubled hot spots where the threat of failing nation states then creates a vacuum that then gives rise to groups like ISIL."
The greatest “recognition” scene in Western literature takes place in Homer’s Odyssey, and occurs between storm-buffeted Odysseus and long-suffering Penelope. Shakespeare’s Pericles, a play with deep Hellenic—and specifically Homeric and Sophoclean—undertones, is its closest rival in the portrayal of recognition, this time between Pericles and his daughter, Marina. This powerful scene, a standout in a play that can appear, at least on stage, disjunctive, is performed with such sensitivity that one might recommend Joseph Haj’s Folger Theatre production on these few minutes alone.
The story of Pericles is, for all its meanderings, relatively straightforward: A prince, alone in this world save two trusted counselors and a faceless kingdom, arrives in Antioch in search of a wife. The king, Antiochus, has a lovely daughter who is prize for any suitor who solves his riddle. The solution contains a terrible truth—the king is sleeping his daughter—which Pericles guesses correctly (to himself). Fearing, again correctly, that the Antiochus suspects he alighted on the answer and wants him dead, Pericles flees. This sets in motion a play that will, at various times, find Pericles saving a town from famine, drowning at sea, washing up on a foreign shore and winning the hand of a new princess, losing his wife during childbirth, abandoning his daughter to the same people who he rescued from starvation (they sell her into sex slavery), and without boring you with even more details, conversing with the goddess Diana in a dream.
The wonder of Pericles lies in its various storylines, each of the threads strong enough to suspend its own dramatic world. But this is also its primary weakness, and modern directors, perhaps sensitive to these pitfalls, tend to avoid it. This is the Folger Theatre’s first production of Pericles, and while the result, overall, has much to offer, aspects of the production are uneven. Haj frequently takes recourse to slapstick theatrics, which may be unavoidable in a play that calls for the brief—and bizarre—inclusion of pirates to keep up plot progression, but can be distracting. But even those aspects of the play that are overemphasized are played so well by the cast that one’s attention lays captivated by the actors to the exclusion of various distractions.
The Folger creative team deserves much of the credit for Pericles’ success. The stripped-down production shifts attention to the actors, while the use of live instruments, played admirably by the performers themselves, enriches the already intimate Folger settings.
Like a lot of people my age and older, I first discovered Dalton Trumbo through Metallica. Spurred on by many late night viewings of the haunting video for the band’s anti-war single “One,” I discovered Johnny Got His Gun—Trumbo’s 1939 novel that inspired the 1971 film adaptation, which in turn became the intellectual jet-fuel powering the dueling engines of James Hatfield and Kirk Hammett’s electric guitars.
I soon discovered that Metallica’s aural assault had nothing on Trumbo’s feverish prose. Johnny Got His Gun, which agonizingly details the tortured inner life of Joe Bonham, a World War I veteran who has been confined to a hospital bed for years due to the loss of his arms, legs, and entire face, remains among the most horrific narratives ever committed to paper.
Inspired by a newspaper article he had read about the Prince of Wales’s visit to a horribly disfigured Canadian soldier, Trumbo’s Johnny Got His Gun drips with a rage so fierce that it makes Wilfred Owen’s “Dulce Et Decorum Est” seem like something written on a latrine wall by a professional milksop. Indeed, Trumbo’s anger would prove to be eternally hot. When Johnny Got His Gun was first serialized in the Communist newspaper The Daily Worker, it dug its fingernails into the veins of the isolationist left and right, both of which were incensed by the very idea of American boys joining yet another European war. But even years after the Second World War and his own blacklisting in Hollywood due to Communist leanings, Trumbo remained defiant and continued to apply the message of Johnny Got His Gun to the American foreign policy that developed during the Cold War.
Secretary of State John Kerry believes that al Qaeda’s “top leadership” has been “neutralize[d]” as “an effective force.” He made the claim while discussing the administration’s strategy, or lack thereof, for combating the Islamic State (ISIS), which is al Qaeda’s jihadist rival. Kerry believes that the U.S. and its allies can finish off ISIS quicker than al Qaeda. There’s just one problem: It is not true that al Qaeda or its top leaders have been “neutralize[d].”
Dozens of senior al Qaeda terrorists, including of course Osama bin Laden, have been eliminated. But al Qaeda is not a simple top-down terrorist group that can be entirely vanquished by killing or detaining select key leaders. It is a paramilitary insurgency organization that is principally built for waging guerilla warfare. Terrorism is a part of what al Qaeda does, but not nearly all. And a key reason why al Qaeda has been able to regenerate its threat against us repeatedly over the past 14 years is that it uses its guerilla armies to groom new leaders and identify recruits for terrorist plots against the West.
The summary below shows what al Qaeda looks like today – it is far from being “neutralize[d].” Instead, al Qaeda and its regional branches are fighting in more countries today than ever. They are trying to build radical Islamic states, just like ISIS, which garners more attention but hasn’t, contrary to conventional wisdom, surpassed al Qaeda in many areas.
In Afghanistan, al Qaeda remains closely allied with the Taliban and is participating in the Taliban-led insurgency’s advances throughout the country. Al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri has sworn allegiance to the Taliban’s new emir, Mullah Mansour, who publicly accepted Zawahiri’s oath of loyalty in August. Al Qaeda-affiliated fighters are playing a key role in the Taliban’s offensive, with the Taliban-al Qaeda axis overrunning approximately 40 of Afghanistan’s 398 districts this year alone. This is part of the reason that President Obama decided to leave a small contingent of American forces in Afghanistan past his term in office.
To give you a sense of what al Qaeda is really doing in Afghanistan, consider that U.S. forces led raids against two large training facilities in the country’s south in October. One of the camps was approximately 30 square miles in size. Gen. John F. Campbell, who oversees the war effort in Afghanistan, explained that the camp was run by al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) and is “probably the largest training camp-type facility that we have seen in 14 years of war.”
Think about that: U.S. officials just discovered what is probably the largest al Qaeda camp since 2001. Al Qaeda hasn’t been neutralized in Afghanistan. In fact, numerous al Qaeda leaders have relocated into the country.
Were you thinking that corporate tax reform seemed like a potentially bipartisan issue that could actually get accomplished in the last year of the Obama administration? Elizabeth Warren is here to scuttle that dream.
Here's the problem with our corporate tax code in a nutshell: We have the highest corporate tax rate in the developed world and our convoluted system imposes a tax on every dollar a corporation earns, no matter where it is earned. That means that U.S. corporations keep trillions of dollars parked overseas rather than returning it to the United States.
While attempts to get a wholesale reform of the tax code have gone nowhere, members on both sides of the aisle have been exploring a corporate-only tax reform that would reduce the corporate tax rate and alter how we tax foreign sourced income while getting rid of many of the tax preferences in the code. Such a reform would result in more domestic investment and job creation, higher economic growth, and little or no lost revenue.
Who could be against that? Elizabeth Warren, of course.
In a speech at the National Press Club this week, Warren pronounced that the real problem with the corporate tax is that it doesn't collect enough revenue, and that if anything we ought to be raising the rate.
Set aside the fact that the corporate tax rate isn't terribly progressive to begin with, given that a CBO study estimates that the bulk of the corporate income tax is paid by workers in the form of lower wages. The real problem with her diatribe is that she felt obligated to sabotage on one of the few bipartisan agreements that seem to be possible in the next year by employing the same stale rhetoric that the lefty blogs fall on when they run out of coherent arguments to use on corporate taxes.
Why Warren gets respect for her thoughtful posturing when her actions are indistinguishable from Ted Cruz is beyond me.
Ike Brannon is president of Capital Policy Analytics, a consulting firm in Washington.
Readers are no doubt aware of the spreading contagion of public demonstrations—largely under the rubric of “Black Lives Matter”—that has agitated campuses from coast to coast. Thanks to modern electronic technology, the spectacle of a Yale college master being cursed to his face (“Who the f— hired you?”), students in the Dartmouth library confronted by screaming radicals (“Filthy white bitch!”), and vandals occupying the Princeton president’s office (“All of this is mine!”) have gone viral on the Internet, as they should.
Anyone tempted to underestimate the bullying character of the movement, or to overestimate the moral courage of academic administrators, should watch the videos—and more than once.
On the one hand, The Scrapbook is horrified by the hysteria and sheer philistine fury of the demonstrators. Those of us old enough to remember scenes from China’s Cultural Revolution of the 1960s half-expect these hapless deans and vice-chancellors for diversity to be pinioned and wrapped in Maoist placards before confessing their sins and being beaten.
On the other hand, The Scrapbook cannot think of a class of scholars and pedagogues who more richly deserve to reap what they have sown. As might be expected, no amount of groveling has spared them—bullies are expert at recognizing weakness, after all—and some of the groveling has been especially impressive. Dartmouth’s vice provost for student affairs, one Inge-Lise Ameer, apologized profusely to Dartmouth’s library mob, and then—mindful, perhaps, of public perceptions—added this: “There’s a whole conservative world out there that’s not being very nice.”
In that sense, of course, Ameer may well be right: Just as, a generation ago, campus violence and radical insurrection turned America rightward, it could happen again. The Republican presidential candidate who points to this disruption of higher learning, and the feckless behavior of faculties and deans, may find a potent issue. Which makes a recent front-page story in the Washington Post more mysterious than usual.
Headlined “How Black Lives Matter became a campus force” (Nov. 18), and written by reporter Sandhya Somashekhar, it can only be described as a long-form version of a Black Lives Matter press release. For, according to the Post, screaming racial epithets and intimidating students in libraries is the work not of a mob but of committed “activists” who are “clamoring for an overhaul of the nation’s criminal-justice system and other social changes aimed at bettering the lives of African Americans.”
The casual reader might believe that bullying tactics, physical assaults, and blackmail demands are inimical to the life of the mind; but according to the Post, the casual reader would be wrong. “Campus activists,” it explains, “tend to have more nuanced and even symbolic concerns”—which might surprise students in college to learn, who might also wish to study unmolested by “nuanced and even symbolic” violence.