Saturday, September 15, 2012

O vs. the First Amendment

By Andrew C. McCarthy
September 15, 2012

Democrats and their sharky Obamedia defense lawyers are in a snit. For three dreamy convention days in Charlotte, they told themselves that, for the first time in decades, it was their guy who had the upper hand when it came to national security. Now that bubble has burst, the way contrived narratives do when they crash into concrete challenges. At that point, an airy president of the world won’t do; we need to have a president of the United States, a job that has never suited, and has never been of much interest to, Barack Obama.
Defense against foreign enemies is the primary job of the president of the United States. The rationale for the office’s creation is national defense — not green venture capitalism, not rationing medical care, not improving the self-image of the “Muslim world,” not leaving no child behind, not blowing out the Treasury’s credit line. Yet, though we are entering the late innings, foreign policy and national defense have not been factors in the 2012 campaign.
That is worth bearing in mind when we hear the laugh-out-loud narrative of Obama as foreign-affairs chess master. The president badly wants to win reelection. If there were anything to his alleged prowess, we’d not have heard the end of it. What we’ve heard, instead, is a bumper-sticker: “Obama killed Osama.” The Left hoped to paste it over the president’s generally dreary record. Even with the Obamedia in coordinated overdrive, the plan can work only if Mitt Romney lets it work — and, thankfully, it looks like he won’t.
Give the president his due: In 2008, he said he would go hard against terrorist havens, no matter how upset this made John McCain’s cherished “allies” in Pakistan, and he has. But even the welcome slamming of jihadist redoubts is undermined by the mess Obama has made of terrorist detention — so our forces kill in situations where they could capture, drying up the intelligence reservoir that has been vital to thwarting new cells and plots.
Moreover, any president would have given the order to take bin Laden out, and just about any post-9/11 president would bomb jihadist hideouts. What’s extraordinary about Obama’s performance in this regard is that he’s one you might have wondered about — he gets graded on a curve. But, thankful as we may be, this is thin camouflage for the rest of Obama’s agenda, which is post-American, anti-constitutional, enabling of the ideology that spawns terrorism, faithless toward our real allies, and feckless in the face of menacing Iran.
The game never goes according to plan. The batted ball always manages to find the suspect fielder, no matter how hard the coach, or the campaign, tries to hide him. On the eleventh anniversary of the 9/11 atrocities, the world and its affairs found the Obama administration — intruding on the president’s effort to win reelection by a brand of domestic class warfare that gives new meaning to the word “small.”
When it came, Obama’s moment was entirely predictable. It was, after all, self-inflicted: the inevitable fallout of policy crafted by the faculty-lounge pinhead, whose ideas are so saccharine smug there’s never a thought of anything so jejune as their consequences. Obama being Obama, when the consequences came, he crawled under his desk — before escaping to a Vegas fundraiser.
“The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims.” So declared the Obama State Department in a statement issued on the website of its Egyptian embassy. At the time, it was clear that another episode of Muslim mayhem was imminent.
The statement is a disgrace, just as Mitt Romney said it was. It elevated over the U.S. Constitution (you know, the thing Obama took an oath to “preserve, protect, and defend”) the claimed right of sharia supremacists (you know, “Religion of Peace” adherents) to riot over nonsense. Further, it dignified the ludicrous pretext that an obscure, moronic 14-minute video was the actual reason for the oncoming jihad.
Here is the important part, however, the part not to be missed, no matter how determined the president’s media shysters are to cover it up: The disgraceful embassy statement was a completely accurate articulation of longstanding Obama policy.
As Obama struggled to put daylight between himself and his record, the press was duly pathetic. The president, Politico was quick tocavil, had nothing to do with “the statement by Embassy Cairo.” An administration official declaimed that it “was not cleared by Washington and does not reflect the views of the United States government.” You are to believe the Obama White House exists in a galaxy separate from the Obama State Department, which itself inhabits a frontier distant and detached from the U.S. embassy in Cairo — except, one supposes, for the$38,000 in taxpayer funds the embassy spent on Obama autobiographies, apparently thought to be craved by Egyptians, at least when they’re not ever-so-moderately chanting “Obama, Obama, there are still a billion Osamas.”
In point of fact, the embassy’s statement perfectly reflects the views of the United States government under Obama’s stewardship. It is anathema to most Americans, but it has been Obama’s position from the start.
In 2009, the Obama State Department ceremoniously joined with Muslim governments to propose a United Nations resolution that, as legal commentator Stuart Taylor observed, was “all-too-friendly to censoring speech that some religions and races find offensive.” Titled “Freedom of Opinion and Expression” — a name only an Alinskyite or a Muslim Brotherhood tactician could love — the resolution was the latest salvo in a years-long campaign by the 57-government Organization of the Islamic Conference (now renamed the “Organization of Islamic Cooperation”). The OIC’s explicit goal is to coerce the West into adopting sharia, particularly its “defamation” standards.
Sharia severely penalizes any insult to Islam or its prophet, no matter how slight. Death is a common punishment. And although navel-gazing apologists blubber about how “moderate Islamist” governments will surely ameliorate enforcement of this monstrous law, the world well knows that the “Muslim street” usually takes matters into its own hands — with encouragement from their influential sheikhs and imams.
In its obsession with propitiating Islamic supremacists, the Obama administration has endorsed this license to mutilate. In the United States, the First Amendment prohibits sharia restrictions on speech about religion. As any Catholic or Jew can tell you, everyone’s belief system is subject to critical discussion. One would think that would apply doubly to Islam. After all, many Muslims accurately cite scripture as a justification for violence; and classical Islam recognizes no separation between spiritual and secular life — its ambition, through sharia, is to control matters (economic, political, military, social, hygienic, etc.) that go far beyond what is understood and insulated as “religious belief” in the West. If it is now “blasphemy” to assert that it is obscene to impose capital punishment on homosexuals and apostates, to take just two of the many examples of sharia oppression, then we might as well hang an “Out of Business” sign on our Constitution.
The Obama administration, however, did not leave it at the 2009 resolution. It has continued to work with the OIC on subordinating the First Amendment to sharia’s defamation standards — even hosting last year’s annual conference, a “High Level Meeting on Combatting Religious Intolerance.” That paragon of speech sensitivity, Secretary of State Hillary “We Came, We Saw, He Died” Clinton, hailed as a breakthrough a purported compromise that would have criminalized only speech that incited violence based on religious hostility. But it was a smokescreen: Speech that intentionally solicits violence, regardless of the speaker’s motivation, is already criminal and has always been exempted from First Amendment protection. There is no need for more law about that.
The sharia countries were happy with the compromise, though, because it also would have made unlawful speech that incites mere “discrimination” and “hostility” toward religion. Secretary Clinton’s feint was that this passed constitutional muster because such speech would not be made criminally unlawful. Yet the First Amendment says “make no law,” not “make nocriminal law,” restricting speech. The First Amendment permits us to criticize in a way that may provoke hostility — it would be unconstitutional to suppress that regardless of whether the law purporting to do so was civil, as opposed to criminal.
But let’s put the legal hair-splitting aside. Knowing her legal position was unsound, and that traditional forms of law could not constitutionally be used to suppress critical examination of religion, Secretary Clinton further explained the administration’s commitment “to use some old-fashioned techniques of peer pressure and shaming, so that people don’t feel that they have the support to do what we abhor.” The government is our servant, not our master — besides enforcing valid laws, it has no business using its coercive power to play social engineer. More to the present point, however, the administration was effectively saying it is perfectly appropriate to employ extra-legal forms of intimidation to suppress speech that “we abhor.”
That is precisely what the Egyptian mob was about to do when the U.S. embassy issued its statement. The Obama administration’s position? The president endorses extortionate “peer pressure” and “shaming,” but condemns constitutionally protected speech. That’s exactly the message the embassy’s statement conveyed.
Mind you, what is playing out in Egypt — as well as Libya, Yemen, and Tunisia — is a charade. It has nothing to do with the dopey movie. There is as much or more agitation to release the Blind Sheikh — which the Obama administration has also encouraged by its embrace of Islamists,including the Blind Sheikh’s terrorist organization. The latest round of marauding is about power.
Islamic supremacists see themselves in a civilizational war with us. When we submit on a major point, we grow weaker and they grow stronger. They win a big round in the jihad. President Obama’s anti-constitutional policy — the one he lacked the courage to stand by when, shall we say, the “chickens came home to roost” — has made speech suppression low-hanging fruit. The Islamists are going for it.
In a situation that called for a president who would actually defend the Constitution, Mitt Romney rose to the occasion. The administration’s performance was, as he asserted, “disgraceful.” Further, Romney admonished,
America will not tolerate attacks against our citizens and against our embassies. We’ll defend also our constitutional rights of speech, and assembly, and religion. We have confidence in our cause in America. We respect our Constitution. We stand for the principles our constitution protects. We encourage other nations to understand and respect the principles of our constitution, because we recognize that these principles are the ultimate source of freedom for individuals around the world.
Can you imagine the current incumbent, the guy sworn to defend the Constitution, ever saying such a thing — or, better, saying it and actually meaning it? Me neither. It will be remembered as the moment the race for president finally became about the real job of a president. It will be remembered as the moment Romney won.

— Andrew C. McCarthy is a senior fellow at theNational Review Institute and executive director of the Philadelphia Freedom Center. His latest book, Spring Fever: The Illusion of Islamic Democracy, will be published by Encounter Books on September 18.

An Act of War, Not a Movie Protest

By Mark Steyn
The Orange County Register
September 14, 2012

So, on a highly symbolic date, mobs storm American diplomatic facilities and drag the corpse of a U.S. ambassador through the streets. Then the president flies to Vegas for a fundraiser. No, no, a novelist would say; that's too pat, too neat in its symbolic contrast. Make it Cleveland, or Des Moines.
The president is surrounded by delirious fanbois and fangurls screaming "We love you," too drunk on his celebrity to understand that this is the first photo-op in the aftermath of a national humiliation. No, no, a filmmaker would say; too crass, too blunt. Make them sober, middle-aged Midwesterners, shocked at first, but then quiet and respectful.
The president is too lazy and cocksure to have learned any prepared remarks or mastered the appropriate tone, notwithstanding that a government that spends more money than any government in the history of the planet has ever spent can surely provide him with both a speechwriting team and a quiet corner on his private wide-bodied jet to consider what might be fitting for the occasion. So instead he sloughs off the words, bloodless and unfelt: "And obviously our hearts are broken..." Yeah, it's totally obvious.

And he's even more drunk on his celebrity than the fanbois, so in his slapdashery he winds up comparing the sacrifice of a diplomat lynched by a pack of savages with the enthusiasm of his own campaign bobbysoxers. No, no, says the Broadway director; that's too crude, too ham-fisted. How about the crowd is cheering and distracted, but he's the president, he understands the gravity of the hour, and he's the greatest orator of his generation, so he's thought about what he's going to say, and it takes a few moment but his words are so moving that they still the cheers of the fanbois, and at the end there's complete silence and a few muffled sobs, and even in party-town they understand the sacrifice and loss of their compatriots on the other side of the world.

But no, that would be an utterly fantastical America. In the real America, the president is too busy to attend the security briefing on the morning after a national debacle, but he does have time to do Letterman and appear on a hip-hop radio show hosted by "The Pimp With A Limp." In the real State Department, the U.S. Embassy in Cairo is guarded by Marines with no ammunition, but they do enjoy the soft-power muscle of a Foreign Service officer, one Lloyd Schwartz, tweeting frenziedly into cyberspace (including a whole chain directed at my own Twitter handle, for some reason) about how America deplores insensitive people who are so insensitively insensitive that they don't respectfully respect all religions equally respectfully and sensitively, even as the raging mob is pouring through the gates.
When it comes to a flailing, blundering superpower, I am generally wary of ascribing to malevolence what is more often sheer stupidity and incompetence. For example, we're told that, because the consulate in Benghazi was designated as an "interim facility," it did not warrant the level of security and protection that, say, an embassy in Scandinavia would have. This seems all too plausible – that security decisions are made not by individual human judgment but according to whichever rule-book sub-clause at the Federal Agency of Bureaucratic Facilities Regulation it happens to fall under. However, the very next day the embassy in Yemen, which is a permanent facility, was also overrun, as was the embassy in Tunisia the day after. Look, these are tough crowds, as the president might say at Caesar's Palace. But we spend more money on these joints than anybody else, and they're as easy to overrun as the Belgian Consulate.
As I say, I'm inclined to be generous, and put some of this down to the natural torpor and ineptitude of government. But Hillary Clinton and Gen. Martin Dempsey are guilty of something worse, in the Secretary of State's weirdly obsessive remarks about an obscure film supposedly disrespectful of Mohammed and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs' telephone call to a private citizen, asking him if he could please ease up on the old Islamophobia.
Forget the free-speech arguments. In this case, as Secretary Clinton and Gen. Dempsey well know, the film has even less to do with anything than did the Danish cartoons or the schoolteacher's teddy bear or any of the other innumerable grievances of Islam. The 400-strong assault force in Benghazi showed up with RPGs and mortars: that's not a spontaneous movie protest; that's an act of war, and better planned and executed than the dying superpower's response to it. Secretary Clinton and Gen. Dempsey are, to put it mildly, misleading the American people when they suggest otherwise.
One can understand why they might do this, given the fiasco in Libya. The men who organized this attack knew the ambassador would be at the consulate in Benghazi rather than at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli. How did that happen? They knew when he had been moved from the consulate to a "safe house," and switched their attentions accordingly. How did that happen? The United States government lost track of its ambassador for 10 hours. How did that happen? Perhaps, when they've investigated Mitt Romney's press release for another three or four weeks, the court eunuchs of the American media might like to look into some of these fascinating questions, instead of leaving the only interesting reporting on an American story to the foreign press.
For whatever reason, Secretary Clinton chose to double down on misleading the American people. "Libyans carried Chris' body to the hospital," said Mrs. Clinton. That's one way of putting it. The photographs at the Arab TV network al-Mayadeen show Chris Stevens' body being dragged through the streets, while the locals take souvenir photographs on their cellphones. A man in a red striped shirt photographs the dead-eyed ambassador from above; another immediately behind his head moves the splayed arm and holds his cellphone camera an inch from the ambassador's nose. Some years ago, I had occasion to assist in moving the body of a dead man: We did not stop to take photographs en route. Even allowing for cultural differences, this looks less like "carrying Chris' body to the hospital" and more like barbarians gleefully feasting on the spoils of savagery.
In a rare appearance on a non-showbiz outlet, President Obama, winging it on Telemundo, told his host that Egypt was neither an ally nor an enemy. I can understand why it can be difficult to figure out, but here's an easy way to tell: Bernard Lewis, the great scholar of Islam, said some years ago that America risked being seen as harmless as an enemy and treacherous as a friend. At the Benghazi consulate, the looters stole "sensitive" papers revealing the names of Libyans who've cooperated with the United States. Oh, well. As the president would say, obviously our hearts are with you.
Meanwhile, in Pakistan, the local doctor who fingered bin Laden to the Americans sits in jail. In other words, while America's clod vice-president staggers around, pimping limply that only Obama had the guts to take the toughest decision anyone's ever had to take, the poor schlub who actually did have the guts, who actually took the tough decision in a part of the world where taking tough decisions can get you killed, languishes in a cell because Washington would not lift a finger to help him.
Like I said, no novelist would contrast Chris Stevens on the streets of Benghazi and Barack Obama on stage in Vegas. Too crude, too telling, too devastating.


Friday, September 14, 2012

Revealed: inside story of U.S. envoy's assassination

By Kim Sengupta
The Independent
14 September 2012

The killings of the US ambassador to Libya and three of his staff were likely to have been the result of a serious and continuing security breach, The Independent can reveal.
American officials believe the attack was planned, but Chris Stevens had been back in the country only a short while and the details of his visit to Benghazi, where he and his staff died, were meant to be confidential.
The US administration is now facing a crisis in Libya. Sensitive documents have gone missing from the consulate in Benghazi and the supposedly secret location of the "safe house" in the city, where the staff had retreated, came under sustained mortar attack. Other such refuges across the country are no longer deemed "safe".
Some of the missing papers from the consulate are said to list names of Libyans who are working with Americans, putting them potentially at risk from extremist groups, while some of the other documents are said to relate to oil contracts.
According to senior diplomatic sources, the US State Department had credible information 48 hours before mobs charged the consulate in Benghazi, and the embassy in Cairo, that American missions may be targeted, but no warnings were given for diplomats to go on high alert and "lockdown", under which movement is severely restricted.
Mr Stevens had been on a visit to Germany, Austria and Sweden and had just returned to Libya when the Benghazi trip took place with the US embassy's security staff deciding that the trip could be undertaken safely.
Eight Americans, some from the military, were wounded in the attack which claimed the lives of Mr Stevens, Sean Smith, an information officer, and two US Marines. All staff from Benghazi have now been moved to the capital, Tripoli, and those whose work is deemed to be non-essential may be flown out of Libya.
In the meantime a Marine Corps FAST Anti-Terrorism Reaction Team has already arrived in the country from a base in Spain and other personnel are believed to be on the way. Additional units have been put on standby to move to other states where their presence may be needed in the outbreak of anti-American fury triggered by publicity about a film which demeaned the Prophet Mohamed.
A mob of several hundred stormed the US embassy in the Yemeni capital Sanaa yesterday. Other missions which have been put on special alert include almost all those in the Middle East, as well as in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Armenia, Burundi and Zambia.
Senior officials are increasingly convinced, however, that the ferocious nature of the Benghazi attack, in which rocket-propelled grenades were used, indicated it was not the result of spontaneous anger due to the video, called Innocence of Muslims. Patrick Kennedy, Under-Secretary at the State Department, said he was convinced the assault was planned due to its extensive nature and the proliferation of weapons.
There is growing belief that the attack was in revenge for the killing in a drone strike in Pakistan of Mohammed Hassan Qaed, an al-Qa'ida operative who was, as his nom-de-guerre Abu Yahya al-Libi suggests, from Libya, and timed for the anniversary of the 11 September attacks.
Senator Bill Nelson, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said: "I am asking my colleagues on the committee to immediately investigate what role al-Qa'ida or its affiliates may have played in the attack and to take appropriate action."
According to security sources the consulate had been given a "health check" in preparation for any violence connected to the 9/11 anniversary. In the event, the perimeter was breached within 15 minutes of an angry crowd starting to attack it at around 10pm on Tuesday night. There was, according to witnesses, little defence put up by the 30 or more local guards meant to protect the staff. Ali Fetori, a 59-year-old accountant who lives near by, said: "The security people just all ran away and the people in charge were the young men with guns and bombs."
Wissam Buhmeid, the commander of the Tripoli government-sanctioned Libya's Shield Brigade, effectively a police force for Benghazi, maintained that it was anger over the Mohamed video which made the guards abandon their post. "There were definitely people from the security forces who let the attack happen because they were themselves offended by the film; they would absolutely put their loyalty to the Prophet over the consulate. The deaths are all nothing compared to insulting the Prophet."
Mr Stevens, it is believed, was left in the building by the rest of the staff after they failed to find him in dense smoke caused by a blaze which had engulfed the building. He was discovered lying unconscious by local people and taken to a hospital, the Benghazi Medical Centre, where, according to a doctor, Ziad Abu Ziad, he died from smoke inhalation.
An eight-strong American rescue team was sent from Tripoli and taken by troops under Captain Fathi al- Obeidi, of the February 17 Brigade, to the secret safe house to extract around 40 US staff. The building then came under fire from heavy weapons. "I don't know how they found the place to carry out the attack. It was planned, the accuracy with which the mortars hit us was too good for any ordinary revolutionaries," said Captain Obeidi. "It began to rain down on us, about six mortars fell directly on the path to the villa."
Libyan reinforcements eventually arrived, and the attack ended. News had arrived of Mr Stevens, and his body was picked up from the hospital and taken back to Tripoli with the other dead and the survivors.
Mr Stevens' mother, Mary Commanday, spoke of her son yesterday. "He did love what he did, and he did a very good job with it. He could have done a lot of other things, but this was his passion. I have a hole in my heart," she said.

Global anger: The protests spread

The furore across the Middle East over the controversial film about the Prophet Mohamed is now threatening to get out of control. In Sana'a, the Yemeni capital, yesterday around 5,000 demonstrators attacked the US embassy, leaving at least 15 people injured. Young protesters, shouted: "We sacrifice ourselves for you, Messenger of God," smashed windows of the security offices and burned at least five cars, witnesses said.

Egypt's Islamist President Mohamed Morsi yesterday condemned the attack in Benghazi that killed the US ambassador. In a speech in Brussels, Mr Morsi said he had spoken to President Obama and condemned "in the clearest terms" the Tuesday attacks. Despite this, and possibly playing to a domestic audience, President Obama said yesterday that "I don't think we would consider them an ally, but we don't consider them an enemy".
Demonstrators in Cairo attacked the mission on Tuesday evening and protests have continued since.

Militants said the anti-Islamic film "will put all the American interests Iraq in danger" and called on Muslims everywhere to "face our joint enemy", as protesters in Baghdad burned American flags yesterday. The warning from the Iranian-backed group Asaib Ahl al-Haq came as demonstrators demanded the closure of the US embassy in the capital.

Islamists warned they may "besiege" the US embassy in Dhaka after security forces stopped around 1,000 protesters marching to the building. The Khelafat Andolon group called for bigger protests as demonstrators threw their fists in the air, burned the flag and chanted anti-US slogans.

There was a Hamas-organised protest in Gaza City, and as many as 100 Arab Israelis took to the streets in Tel Aviv. In Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai postponed a trip to Norway, fearing violence. Officials in Pakistan said they "expected protests". Protesters in Tunis burnt US flags.

*Patrick Cockburn: The murder of US ambassador Christopher Stevens proves the Arab Spring was never what it seemed
*Editorial: Obama must measure his response
*US defends itself to the world - but back home it's war
*Jerome Taylor: Fear and loathing - Another unholy row about Islam
*The softly spoken diplomat who lifted the rebels' resolve
*Robert Fisk: The provocateurs know politics and religion don't mix

Farewell, First Amendment

By Jonah Goldberg
September 14, 2012

An incendiary video about the prophet Mohammad, Innocence of Muslims, was blamed for the mob attacks on our embassies in Libya and Egypt (and, later, Yemen). In Libya, Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were murdered. The video stirred some passion here in America as well.

Over at MSNBC, a riot of consensus broke out when contributors Mike Barnicle and Donny Deutsch as well as University of Pennsylvania professor Anthea Butler all agreed that the people behind the video should be indicted as accessories to murder. “Good morning,” declared Butler, “How soon is Sam Bacile [the alleged creator of the film] going to be in jail folks? I need him to go now.”

Barnicle set his sights on Terry Jones, the pastor who wanted to burn the Koran a while back and who was allegedly involved in the video as well. “Given this supposed minister’s role in last year’s riots in Afghanistan, where people died, and given his apparent or his alleged role in this film, where . . . at least one American, perhaps the American ambassador, is dead, it might be time for the Department of Justice to start viewing his role as an accessory before or after the fact.”

Deutsch helpfully added: “I was thinking the same thing, yeah.”

It’s interesting to see such committed liberals in lockstep agreement with the Islamist government in Egypt, which implored the U.S. government to take legal action against the filmmakers. Interestingly, not even the Muslim Brotherhood–controlled Egyptian government demanded these men be tried for murder.

Now, I have next to no sympathy for the makers of this film, who clearly hoped to start trouble, violent or otherwise. But where does this logic end? One of the things we’ve learned all too well is that the “Muslim street” — and often Muslim elites — have a near-limitless capacity to take offense at slights to their religion, honor, history, or feelings.

Does Barnicle want Salman Rushdie, the author of The Satanic Verses, charged with being an accessory to murder, too? That book has in one way or another led to several deaths. Surely he should have known that he was stirring up trouble. Perhaps the U.S. Justice Department and the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security could work together on a joint prosecution?

Perhaps Rushdie’s offense doesn’t count because he’s a literary celebrity? Only crude attacks on Islam should be held accountable for the murderous bloodlust they elicit.

One might ask who is to decide what is crude and what is refined. But that would be fruitless, because we know the real answer: the Islamist mobs and their leaders. Their rulings would come in the form of bloody conniptions around the world.

Are we really going to hold what we can say or do in our own country hostage to the passions of foreign lynch mobs?

If your answer is some of form of “yes,” then you might want to explain why U.S. citizens aren’t justified in attacking Egyptian or Libyan embassies here in America. After all, I get pretty mad when I see goons burning the American flag, and I become downright livid when a U.S. ambassador is murdered. Maybe some of my like-minded friends and I should burn down some embassies here in Washington, D.C., or maybe a consulate in New York City?
Of course we shouldn’t do that. To argue that Americans shouldn’t resort to mayhem while suggesting it’s understandable when Muslims do is to create a double standard that either renders Muslims unaccountable savages (they can’t help themselves!) or casts Americans as somehow less passionate about what we hold dear, be it our flag, our diplomats, or our religions. (It’s hardly as if Islamists don’t defame Christianity, Judaism, moderate forms of Islam, or even atheism.)

But, I’m sorry to say, that may in fact be the case. After all, with barely a moment’s thought these deep thinkers on MSNBC were willing to throw out the First Amendment for a little revenge. It was a moment of voluntary surrender to terrorism.

Within 24 hours, however, it became increasingly clear that the video wasn’t even the motive for the murders; it was a convenient cover for them. In effect, the terrorists behind the Libyan attack not only successfully played the Muslim street for suckers, they played Barnicle & Co. for suckers, too.

— Jonah Goldberg is an editor-at-large ofNational Review Online and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. You can write to him by e-mail at or via Twitter: @JonahNRO. © 2012 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

The Abandonment

By Charles Krauthammer
The Washington Post
September 14, 2012

There are two positions one can take regarding the Iranian nuclear program: (a) it doesn’t matter, we can deter them; or (b) it does matter, we must stop them.
In my view, the first position — that we can contain Iran as we did the Soviet Union — is totally wrong, a product of wishful thinking and misread history. But at least it’s internally coherent.
What is incoherent is President Obama’s position. He declares the Iranian program intolerable — “I do not have a policy of containment; I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon” — yet stands by as Iran rapidly approaches nuclearization.
A policy so incoherent, so knowingly and obviously contradictory, is a declaration of weakness and passivity. And this, as Anthony Cordesman, James Phillips and others have argued, can increase the chance of war. It creates, writes Cordesman, “the same conditions that helped trigger World War II — years of negotiations and threats, where the threats failed to be taken seriously until war became all too real.”
This has precipitated the current U.S.-Israeli crisis, sharpened by the president’s rebuff of the Israeli prime minister’s request for a meeting during his upcoming U.S. visit. Ominous new developments; no Obama response. Alarm bells going off everywhere; Obama plays deaf.
The old arguments, old excuses, old pretensions have become ridiculous:
(1) Sanctions. The director of national intelligence testified to Congress at the beginning of the year that they had zero effect in slowing the nuclear program. Now the International Atomic Energy Agency reports (Aug. 30) that the Iranian nuclear program, far from slowing, is actually accelerating. Iran has doubled the number of high-speed centrifuges at Fordow, the facility outside Qom built into a mountain to make it impregnable to air attack.
This week, the agency reported Iranian advances in calculating the explosive power of an atomic warhead. It noted once again Iran’s refusal to allow inspection of its weapons testing facility at Parchin and cited satellite evidence of Iranian attempts to clean up and hide what’s gone on there.
The administration’s ritual response is that it has imposed the toughest sanctions ever. So what? They’re a means, not an end. And they’ve had no effect on the nuclear program.
(2) Negotiations. The latest, supposedly last-ditch round of talks in Istanbul, Baghdad, then Moscow has completely collapsed. The West even conceded to Iran the right to enrich — shattering a decade-long consensus and six Security Council resolutions demanding its cessation.
Iran’s response? Contemptuous rejection.
Why not? The mullahs have strung Obama along for more than three years and still see no credible threat emanating from the one country that could disarm them.
(3) Diplomatic isolation. The administration boasts that Iran is becoming increasingly isolated. Really? Just two weeks ago, 120 nations showed up in Tehran for a meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement — against U.S. entreaties not to attend. Even the U.N. secretary-general attended — after the administration implored him not to.
Which shows you what American entreaties are worth today. And the farcical nature of Iran’s alleged isolation.
The Obama policy is in shambles. Which is why Cordesman argues that the only way to prevent a nuclear Iran without war is to establish a credible military threat to make Iran recalculate and reconsider. That means U.S. red lines: deadlines beyond which Washington will not allow itself to be strung, as well as benchmark actions that would trigger a response, such as the further hardening of Iran’s nuclear facilities to the point of invulnerability and, therefore, irreversibility.
Which made all the more shocking Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s dismissal last Sunday of the very notion of any U.S. red lines. No deadlines. No bright-line action beyond which Iran must not go. The sleeping giant continues to slumber. And to wait — as the administration likes to put it, “for Iran to live up to its international obligations.”
This is beyond feckless. The Obama policy is a double game: a rhetorical commitment to stopping Iran, yet real-life actions that everyone understands will allow Iran to go nuclear.
Yet at the same time that it does nothing, the administration warns Israel sternly, repeatedly, publicly, even threateningly not to strike the Iranian nuclear program. With zero prospect of his policy succeeding, Obama insists on Israeli inaction, even as Iran races to close the window of opportunity for any successful attack.
Not since its birth six decades ago has Israel been so cast adrift by its closest ally.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

THe Dark Side of Dylan

By John J. Thompson
Christianity Today
September 11, 2012

Today, 50 years after releasing his self-titled debut LP, Bob Dylan unveils Tempest, his 35th studio album. And with it, Dylan, 71, continues what may be the longest uninterrupted era of critical acclaim—including our 4-star review—of his incredible career.
Not that Dylan has ever seemed to care too much for critics' opinions, but since the praise, sales, and awards of 1997's Time Out of Mind, he has maintained a consistent formula of swampy, shuffling, roots rock settings upon which his increasingly ragged voice howls, whistles, winks, and moans.
Elements of Christian theology comingle with folklore, classic poetry, rural history, and oblique personal confession in arresting ways. Though it seems most contemporary Dylanophiles see this era as having begun 15 years ago, the seeds can be found in his often maligned late '80s sets Down in the Groove and Oh Mercy.
Since last month's brief interview with Rolling Stone about the new album, much has been made of the "darkness" of it all. Dylan remarked that he had originally intended for this project to be more specifically "religious" in nature, but the strictures he placed on his songwriting process caused the focus to shift to an assortment of stories and subjects that presented themselves more readily. Those changes notwithstanding, Tempest is as deeply spiritual and haunting as his best work has always been.
Rolling Stone calls it "the single darkest record in Dylan's catalog." The Los Angeles Times, regarding the title track (a 14-minute opus on the sinking of the Titanic), observes, "The reference to an 'inner spirit' implies an outer spirit and in this context suggests an inner transformation under way. And sure enough, Dylan sees an earthly disaster in spiritual terms, and ominously spiritual at that." London's Telegraph notes the album's "dark ruminations," calling it "one of his darkest, bloodiest and most foreboding collections of songs, set in a barren landscape of Godless self-interest, moral equivocation, and random violence."
Dylan in the 1960s
Dylan in the 1960s
But if all these experts think such darkness is new to Dylan's work, they haven't really been listening for the last 50 years. In 1962 a 21-year old Dylan concluded his debut album with "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean" and this lyric: "Well my heart stopped beating and my hands turned cold / Now I believe what the Bible told."
While Dylan lore has him facing death at least twice (his mysterious motorcycle accident in 1966 and a fungal respiratory infection that affected his heart in 1997), the truth is that he has embraced darker themes from the very beginning. To talk about the "dark side of Bob Dylan" is to imply that there is a light side. Sure, the bard has broken protocol a few times, but even on the sweetest of his love songs—"To Make You Feel My Love," for instance—there is always darkness around the edges.
"Rainy Day Women #12 & 35," with its cartoonish pub-song wailing "Everybody Must Get Stoned," is about persecution and abuse dressed up like a drinking song. Like a master painter, Dylan uses these darker brush strokes to give his songs depth, contrast, and resonance. He may be bending the escapist rules of popular music by constantly contemplating mortality, sin, the dark power of the human heart, and the fallen-ness of the world he calls his temporary home, but his creative DNA is far more informed by traditional blues, country, and folk music than contemporary pop. Thank God.

Exploring the shadows

Though Dylan certainly did not invent laments, murder ballads, depression songs, or apocalyptic literature, his greatest contribution to the collective art experience of the 20th and 21st centuries may be how commercially accessible his explorations of the shadows have been.
Maybe it's an accident of timing, but Dylan's ecclesiastical voice is absolutely unique within the confines of the Baby Boomer generation and the art they crafted. The fact that his musical sojourns so frequently and artfully included well formed considerations of the gospel simply adds to his gravitas. The material that closely followed his conversion to Christianity in the late 1970s reflected a far darker and more biblically accurate view of the life and priorities of a Jesus follower than most socially polite "gospel" music would ever dare. There were no holds barred, for instance, in the decidedly impolite and absolute sentiments of "Gotta Serve Somebody":
It may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody
Smack in the middle of the "me" decade, here was a prophet crying in the wilderness that any of our concepts of personal freedom are ultimately a myth. Our option is not to serve or to be independent, but simply to choose to whom we will ultimately bow. Sure, many of his fans hated this era of his music, but any honest consideration of his meta-narrative would have to include stark observations such as this.
There is nothing darker, and more liberating, than the ultimate message of the gospel. Despite the sentiments of self-help televangelists, politically correct professors, and greeting card theologists, the gospel is as dark as it gets. Every human is born guilty. Every person lives under a death sentence. The human life is ultimately a choice between a temporal (though eventually victorious) struggle against our own nature—the death of the self—followed by an eternal reward of rest and peace, or it is about a loving God surrendering his creation to its own willful desire to be apart from him eternally. The choice is up to each individual person, but they face a host of enemies and allies along their own journey.

Recognizing the human condition

Regardless of his well-shrouded personal theology, Dylan has always been extremely adept at recognizing the human condition and calling it what it is: a life-long struggle with eternal implications. Certainly many Christians wish he would have remained as didactic as he seemed to be on his "Christian" records Slow Train ComingSaved and Shot of Love, but that's because many Christians seem uncomfortable with the process of discernment. Why wrestle with meaning when there are easier answers to be had elsewhere?
As influential as those records were in the Christian community, the truth is that Dylan's impact goes back much further. Early Christian artists such as John Fischer, Larry Norman, Randy Stonehill, and Mark Heard (among many others) were much more inspired by the prophetic impact and truth-telling of Dylan than they were of the syrupy-sweet Christian music of their day.
His influence continued long after the "Christian Years." Scores of edgy, brave, Christian artists echoed Dylan's brutally realistic and relentlessly honest style. Switchfoot's 2005 album, Nothing Is Sound, includes the song "Happy Is a Yuppie Word," inspired by Dylan's answer to a 1991 Rolling Stone question about whether he was happy. "These are yuppie words; 'happiness' and 'unhappiness," he said. "It's not happiness or unhappiness; it's either blessed or unblessed." Switchfoot's Jon Foreman may have said it best elsewhere on that same record in the song "The Shadow Proves the Sunshine," clearly echoing Dylan's penchant for Psalmic meditation:
Oh Lord, why did you forsake me?
Oh Lord, don't be far away
Storm clouds gathering beside me
Please Lord, don't look the other way
Crooked souls trying to stay up straight
Dry eyes in the pouring rain
The shadow proves the sunshine
With songs like "Pay in Blood" on Tempest, it's clear that Dylan is not done referencing the Bible for ultimate answers. It's sad that many people will likely miss the obvious substitutionary references in the song. The implications are powerful, and yes, dark. We each ultimately pay in blood—either our own or that of Christ. That's certainly not a message that is "safe for the whole family," but it is the gospel.
The pop landscape is populated with artists and fans who are perfectly satisfied to whistle past their own graveyards. So much modern music simply serves as ditties to sing along to as they ignore their mortality, their fallen nature, and the implications of their choices. Some people, however, choose to walk through the cemetery gate, spread a blanket on the ground, and have a picnic. It is only when the implications, powers, and ultimately the weakness of the grave are confronted, processed, and inhabited that real peace can be found.
The truth is that there is much darkness left to be overcome before we find ourselves in our eternal rest. There are a good number of contemporary Christian artists who can take a cue from Bob Dylan when it comes to the transformative power of the dark.
Homepage photo by John Shearer

Christopher Stevens: Devoured By a Monster He Helped Create

By Robert Spencer
September 13, 2012

When the Libyan uprising against Muammar Gaddafi began to gather steam in April 2011, American diplomat Christopher Stevens was determined to get there, but it wasn’t easy. “We arrived April 5th,” he later explained. “It was difficult to get there at the time. There weren’t any flights. So we came in by a Greek cargo ship and unloaded our gear and our cars and set up our office there” – in Benghazi, that is, the center of the uprising.

There were already numerous indications that the Libyan rebels were not the democratically-minded, America-loving pluralists of media myth. Rolling Stone magazine, of all publications, had warned in their March 21 issue that “America is now at war to protect a Libyan province that’s been an epicenter of anti-American jihad.”

That province was Cyrenaica, with its capital Benghazi. Rolling Stone noted that in 2008, “a West Point analysis of a cache of al Qaeda records discovered that nearly 20 percent of foreign fighters in Iraq were Libyans, and that on a per-capita basis Libya nearly doubled Saudi Arabia as the top source of foreign fighters.”  The main source of those fighters – who mostly became jihad martyrdom suicide bombers, was Cyrenaica.

Stevens’ experience of Benghazi, however, was different – or at very least, the presence of al-Qaeda operatives among the rebels didn’t trouble him. According to a December 2011 piece in the State Department’s magazine State, “Stevens said the Libyans were genuinely grateful to the United States for supporting their aspirations for freedom, as demonstrated by the greeting the team received. The Libyans had hoisted British, French, Qatari and American flags at Freedom Square, the vast open area in front of the Benghazi courthouse.”

There is no way to tell whether any of the Libyans expressing their gratitude to Stevens in April 2011 were among those who brutally tortured and murdered him on September 11, 2012, but it’s entirely within the realm of possibility. Whatever the case, Christopher Stevens has now become the quintessential symbol of what U.S. foreign policy is doing vis-a-vis the global jihad, and of what ultimately will be the outcome for the U.S. if this continues. His story also demonstrates yet again how the establishment Left creates monsters that then devour their creators – as well as numerous bystanders.

Perhaps the most notorious example of relatively recent times is Jimmy Carter’s betrayal and abandonment of the Shah of Iran in 1979, in favor of the Ayatollah Khomeini. Khomeini and his fellow mullahs showed their gratitude to Carter by storming the U.S. embassy and taking hostages that they kept until Ronald Reagan’s first Inauguration Day. Carter had no one but himself to blame for his crushing defeat the previous November, for there would have been no hostages, and Khomeini would not have been in Tehran, had it not been for his efforts.

Carter would not and did not understand that there was no winning over a man like Khomeini, for the Ayatollah’s core beliefs included a hatred and contempt for non-Muslims simply because they were non-Muslims. No adjustment of their public policies would mitigate that hatred and contempt, or the warfare and subjugation that followed from them.

Christopher Stevens, and those for whom he worked, have long made the same mistake, assuming that hearts and minds initiatives and gestures of good will toward the Islamic world will eventually pay off in reciprocal action. What happened to Stevens instead, however, is more indicative of how they actually pay off.

What happened to Stevens is a microcosm of what is happening to the country in general. Christopher Stevens, after aiding the Libyan jihadists, ended up being tortured and murdered by them. And with this murder the Obama administration’s folly in aiding the “Arab Spring” uprisings is laid bare. Just as Stevens rushed to Libya to aid the forces that ended up murdering him, so also the U.S. rushed to aid rebels in Egypt and Syria, as well as Libya, thereby installing regimes that are proving to be much, much more anti-American than those they supplanted. The monster unleashed in the Arab Spring has already begun to devour its chief benefactor.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that Christopher Stevens “will be remembered as a hero by many nations. He risked his life to stop a tyrant then gave his life trying to help build a better Libya. The world needs more Chris Stevenses.”

And the world will get them. Leni never feared there would be a shortage of capitalists ready to sell the communists the rope they would use to hang them. And now, even despite this brutal murder, there is no shortage of diplomats in Washington, ready to show their nation’s good will and bestow its largesse among those who will stab them in the back as soon as they turn in the other direction. If our nation continues indefinitely down this road, the entire country will eventually suffer the fate of Christopher Stevens, writ large.
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Attacks on U.S. Embassies Were Not About a Movie

By Caroline Glick
September 13, 2012


Here are a couple of facts:

On June 4 the White House confirmed that the US had killed Abu Yahya Al-Libi – OBL’s Libyan lieutenant who had moved into Al Qaeda’s #2 spot after Ayman Zahawiri after the Navy SEALs whacked OBL.

On Tuesday 9/11, a tape was released of Zawahiri announcing that Libi had been killed earlier this year by a US drone attack. The Zawahiri tape was made during Ramadan which ended in the middle of last month. Zawahiri called for his terrorist underlings to avenge Libi’s death and especially exhorted Libyans to take revenge.

The attack in Libya was well planned and executed. It wasn’t about a spontaneous protest against some ridiculous internet movie of Muhammad. The assailants came armed to the teeth, with among other things, RPG 7s. They knew that the US Ambassador was in Benghazi rather than Tripoli. They knew how to track his movements, and were able to strike against him after he and his colleagues left the consulate building and tried to flee in a car. As Israel Channel 2′s Arab Affairs Correspondent Ehud Yaari noted this evening, you don’t often see well trained terrorists participating in protests of movies.

Then there is the attack in Cairo. They were led by Mohammad Zawahiri – Ayman Zawahiri’s brother. According the Thomas Josclyn in theWeekly Standard, the US media has been idiotically presenting him as some sort of moderate despite the fact that in an interview with Al Jazeerah he said said, “We in al Qaeda…”

Egypt’s US supported Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi recently released Zawahiri from Egyptian prison. The same Barack Obama who has no time in his schedule to meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu next week in New York, is scheduled to meet Morsi.

The Egyptian government has not condemned the attack on the US Embassy in Cairo. But Morsi is demanding that the US government prosecute the film’s creator.

You may be wondering how some movie no one’s heard of has caused such a hullabaloo. Well, as it turns out, the film was screened on an Egyptian Salafist television channel. Obviously the Salafists — many of whom, like Zawahiri were released from prison by Morsi, wanted to stir up anti-US violence on the eve of 9/11. So if the film is responsible for the violence, a finger needs to be pointed to its chief distributor — Al Qaida’s Egyptian friends and members.

With these facts in hand, it is clear that the attempts to present these acts of war against the US as the consequence of some stupid nothing movie are obscene attempts to deflect the blame for these unwarranted attacks onto their victims and away from their perpetrators.

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Depending on Dependency

By Thomas Sowell
September 13, 2012

The theme that most seemed to rouse the enthusiasm of delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte was that we are all responsible for one another — and that Republicans don’t want to help the poor, the sick, and the helpless.

All of us should be on guard against beliefs that flatter ourselves. At the very least, we should check such beliefs against facts.

Yet the notion that people who prefer economic decisions to be made by individuals in the market are not as compassionate as people who prefer those decisions to be made collectively by politicians is seldom even thought of as a belief that should be checked against facts.

Nor is this notion confined to Democrats in America today. Belief in the superior compassion of the political Left is a worldwide phenomenon that goes back at least as far as the 18th century. But in all that time, and in all those places, there has been little, if any, effort on the left to check this crucial assumption against facts.

When an empirical study of the actual behavior of American conservatives and liberals was published in 2006, it turned out that conservatives donated a larger amount of money, and a higher percentage of their incomes (which were slightly lower than liberal incomes), to philanthropic activities.

Conservatives also donated more of their time to philanthropic activities and donated far more blood than liberals. What is most remarkable about this study are not just its results. What is even more remarkable is how long it took before anyone even bothered to ask the questions. It was just assumed, for centuries, that the Left was more compassionate.

Ronald Reagan donated a higher percentage of his income to charitable activities than did either Franklin D. Roosevelt or Ted Kennedy. Being willing to donate the taxpayers’ money is not the same as being willing to put your own money where your mouth is.

Milton Friedman pointed out that the heyday of free-market capitalism in the 19th century was a period of an unprecedented rise in philanthropic activity. Going even further back in time, in the 18th century Adam Smith, the patron saint of free-market economics, was discovered from records examined after his death to have privately made large charitable donations, far beyond what might have been expected from someone of his income level.
Helping those who have been struck by unforeseeable misfortunes is fundamentally different from making dependency a way of life.

Although the big word on the left is “compassion,” the big agenda on the left is dependency. The more people who are dependent on government handouts, the more votes the Left can depend on for an ever-expanding welfare state.
Optimistic Republicans who say that widespread unemployment and record numbers of people on food stamps hurt President Obama’s reelection chances are overlooking the fact that people who are dependent on government are more likely to vote for politicians who are giving them handouts.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt understood that, back during the Great Depression of the 1930s. He was reelected in a landslide after his first term, during which unemployment was in double digits every single month, and in some months was over 20 percent.

The time is long overdue for optimistic Republicans to understand what FDR understood long ago, and what Barack Obama clearly understands today. Dependency pays off in votes — unless somebody alerts the taxpayers who get stuck with the bill.

The Obama administration is shamelessly advertising in the media — whether on billboards or on television — for people to get on food stamps. Welfare-state bureaucrats have been sent into supermarkets to tell shoppers that food stamps are available.

The intelligentsia have for decades been promoting the idea that there should be no stigma to accepting government handouts. Living off the taxpayers is portrayed as a “right” or — more ponderously — as part of a “social contract.”
You may not recall signing any such contract, but it sounds poetic and high-toned. Moreover, it wins votes among the gullible, and that is the bottom line for welfare-state politicians.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Three realities on September 12, 2012

By David French
September 12, 2012

First, we have learned once again that in the Middle East, weakness kills. There is no amount of tolerance, understanding, or sympathy that will appease a Muslim radical, and the radicals will indeed see that tolerance as an invitation to strike. The attacks in Egypt and Libya on September 11 — of all days — are a brazen insult to Americans infinitely greater in magnitude than any insult to Muslims from a YouTube clip. They feel free to deliver such a blow because they perceive us as weak — and because we have paid for and enabled their own radicalism.

Second, and picking up from the first point, unless and until we take extraordinary and decisive action, we can only expect the situation to grow more dangerous. Egypt’s government has yet to apologize. But why should it apologize if it can continue to equip its military on our dime while indulging and empowering its radical base? (By the way, I’m thinking we should stop using the term “radical” to describe a what is the majority mindset in the Middle East. In the Arab and Iranian Middle East, jihad is mainstream). And now the Muslim Brotherhood is calling for even more protests — at precisely the time when it should be rounding up the protestors, imprisoning them, and redoubling security around our embassy. At a minimum, we must cut all aid to Egypt unless and until they are once again an “ally” in word and deed.

Third, expect the mainstream media to grow ever more hysterical in its effort to silence Mitt Romney and shame him into passivity. In 2007 and 2008 they willingly sold us on a fantasy — that our new president could “change the tone” and heal the wound in the Middle East with the force of his identity and personality. The concept was absurd from the start, and now the extent of their folly is being revealed in the midst of a presidential campaign. Already we see the media more keen on condemning Romney for his appropriate and forceful statement last night than on investigating how two of our diplomatic compounds were breached on the same day (again, on September 11, no less).

Yesterday, I made the case for controlled and focused rage as the right response to September 11. The same principle holds true for today: Our enemies must be made to regret the day they killed Americans and attacked our embassies.

The Abhorrent Vacuum

By Mark Steyn
September 11, 2012

Give kids vouchers to attend 'unreal' schools

By John Kass
Chicago Tribune
September 12, 2012

When Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis led her members out on strike this week, she said real school would be closed.

"Negotiations have been intense but productive," she said. "However, we have failed to reach an agreement that will prevent a labor strike. Real school will not be open (Monday)."

Real school? You mean that public system where four of 10 students don't graduate?

Since real school wasn't open, I was compelled to visit an unreal school.

A South Side school where 100 percent of the students graduate, and 100 percent are accepted to college. A Roman Catholic all-boys school that draws from poor and working-class neighborhoods, a school where there are no cops or metal detectors, no gang recruitment, no fear.

An unreal school that is mostly black, but with a smattering of whites and Latinos, and where every student who sees a stranger in the halls goes up to the newcomer, introduces himself, shakes his hand, looks him in the eye and calls him Mister.

Leo High School, at 79th and Sangamon, seemed pretty unreal to me, too.

Leo isn't pretty. It's 87 years old. The staircase steps are worn and scalloped from all those years of boys tromping to class. But the minds inside are sure springy, like that of Jeremy Clark, future G-man.

"I want to study criminal justice and join the FBI," said Clark, a junior. "Because I want to be an advocate for justice. It's been a dream all my life to join the FBI, and I will."

Clark hails from the Roseland neighborhood. He could have gone to a public high school. That, Clark said, would be "totally different. There, it's every man for himself. At Leo, it's a brotherhood. We're all brothers here. You get things done together."

I told him what Lewis said about real school being closed.

"So we're not a real school?" Clark said and laughed. "No, actually it's totally the opposite. The real schools aren't closed. The real schools are in session, because we're trying to learn."

It was my pleasure and honor to meet them, from Sirlaurence King, top student of the freshman class and standout distance runner who wants to become a lawyer, to the senior class' No. 1 student, James Fagan, a baseball player who will study engineering in college.

"I feel bad for the public students who want to learn, and get their education, and graduate," said Fagan. "I'm glad I didn't go to public school. I'm focused here. It's a safe feeling."

At Leo there are 15 students in a classroom. There are only 160 students in all. Tuition is set at $7,500, but that's just a number. The unofficial motto is that everybody gets something, but nobody gets everything.

My friend Dan McGrath, former sports editor of the Tribune, is the school president.

"It's about creating opportunities for these young guys," said McGrath. "I've always felt Leo helped get me off to a good start in life, and those of us who work here are trying to pay it back. Some of our kids might be just another number at a bigger school. At Leo they know they'll be looked after, they'll be safe and they'll get the type of values-based education that will help them become good citizens. We're not working miracles, we're educating kids, and doing a good job of it. Leo is a special place. I really believe that."

What if parents had the freedom to take the tax dollars spent on their children at public schools, and choose where to send their kids?

Yes, I'm talking vouchers.

"If there were vouchers," said Principal Phil Mesina, "we'd have parents and students lined up all the way down the block. We could accommodate 400. All of our classrooms would be full."

But does it work for the kids? Not when nearly half don't graduate.

"The Chicago Public Schools system is a monopoly provider of education for the children of the city of Chicago, and the Chicago Teachers Union is a monopoly labor provider, and this is a tragedy for the children," said John Tillman, CEO of the Illinois Policy Institute.

"The only way to create accountability is for CPS to empower parents to have a choice of traditional public school, charter schools or vouchers to private schools. … This is not about breaking the union, it's about breaking the monopoly control that the union has over children's lives. I think that's a key point that no one talks about."

Except maybe at places like Leo, where all boys graduate and are accepted to college, a place where the kids come first.

How unreal is that?

Obama and Infanticide

By Ramesh Ponnuru
September 12, 2012

The media, this time the Washington Post, are again tackling the issue of Obama’s opposition, as a state legislator, to a bill protecting infants who survive abortions.
Obama and his apologists gave several excuses for his position during his 2004 senatorial and 2008 presidential campaigns, and continue to do so now. They said he opposed it because the law already protected these infants — a claim thePost’s Michael Dobbs fell for in his 2008 “fact check” on this subject. They said opposed it because the law lacked a clause clarifying that it did not protect fetuses within the womb. In fact Obama opposed a version of the bill that contained one (not that there was ever any need for it).
Here’s what Obama actually said on March 30, 2001, during debate over the legislation:
Number one, whenever we define a previable fetus as a person that is protected by the equal protection clause or the other elements in the Constitution, what we’re really saying is, in fact, that they are persons that are entitled to the kinds of protections that would be provided to a — a child, a nine-month-old — child that was delivered to term. That determination then, essentially, if it was accepted by a court, would forbid abortions to take place. I mean, it — it would essentially bar abortions, because the equal protection clause does not allow somebody to kill a child, and if this is a child, then this would be an antiabortion statute. For that purpose, I think it would probably be found unconstitutional.
Obama went on to list a second reason for thinking the bill unconstitutional, but it was the same as the first: By requiring a doctor to treat a pre-viable infant as a child — by providing the child medical care — the bill violated Roe.
State Senator Obama understood perfectly well that the bill did not apply within the womb, and never said otherwise. His point, to paraphrase it, was that granting legal protections to a pre-viable child was logically incompatible with Roe. He was wrong to predict the courts would see it that way: No court has struck down the type of legislation Illinois was considering; there is now a federal law on the books that is nearly identical to it. The Court’s jurisprudence makes the location of the developing human being — inside or outside the womb — decisive for whether it has a right to life, and not just its stage of development. (That’s one reason pro-lifers made partial-birth abortion an issue: to establish that a child partway out of the womb would be protected.)
That’s why Obama opposed the bill even when it included a redundant passage noting that by protecting infants born alive, i.e., outside the womb, it did not protect fetuses within the womb. He did not believe that human beings at that stage of development should have legal protection, whether inside or outside the womb. He opposed such protection on principle. It was the same argument that the pro-abortion group NARAL made in a July 20, 2000, press release on the federal version of the bill.
Commenting on a different piece of legislation, State Senator Obama raised a related objection to protections for pre-viable infants born alive: Granting them protection by requiring that a second doctor be present to treat any born-alive infant would “burden the original decision of the woman and the physician to induce labor and perform an abortion.” Legal protection for these infants, in addition to being wrong on principle, would inhibit abortion.
During Obama’s presidential campaign, pro-lifers argued that so extreme was his devotion to abortion that he was willing to support a right to infanticide. This charge is absolutely true. He believed that certain infants — those at an early stage of development — should not have legal protection, and he believed it because he thought it would undermine the right to abortion.
Here’s what the Washington Post’s Josh Hicks makes of all this in “fact-checking” an anti-Obama ad by Susan B. Anthony’s List. Hicks quotes the same Obama remarks I did (“Number one, when . . . ”) and writes:
Notice that Obama referred to “previable fetuses,” or those that do not have a reasonable chance of survival outside the mother’s body. Obama’s primary concern seems to be that the born-alive act would prohibit aborting a fetus still inside the womb.
Critics contend that this interpretation is not necessarily true because some previable fetuses survive after delivery from an unsuccessful abortion. They argue that Obama essentially opposed protecting the survivors.
Hicks is misinterpreting Obama. He never said he worried that the law would apply inside the womb, and he still opposed the bill when it added language clarifying that it wouldn’t. At no point does he suggest that it would be okay to provide legal protection to pre-viable infants who survive abortions. That’s because he opposed such protection.
A speaker in the ad Hicks is considering, Melissa Ohden, says that Obama “voted to deny basic Constitutional protections for babies born alive from an abortion.” Hicks writes, “This is true in the sense that the Illinois bills would have guaranteed certain protections for these infants. But Ohden’s claim lacks context: Obama’s objections to the bill suggest that he wasn’t so much bent on denying rights to newborns as wanting to block any legislation that could erode the premise of the Roe v. Wade decision.” He then awards Ohden “one Pinocchio for her slanted take on the president’s position.”
What Ohden said was true in the sense of being true, and Hicks’s criticism is irrelevant. Yes, Obama thought that legislation offering protection for pre-viable infants would in principle erodeRoe’s premise, and that’s why he opposed giving them any protection. In other words: Just as pro-lifers have long maintained, his devotion to abortion was so extreme that he thought a form of infanticide should remain legal.
Hicks continues:
[Mike] Huckabee said Obama “believes that human life is disposable and expendable . . . even beyond the womb.” But this is a mischaracterization of the president’s stance on the Born-Alive Infants Protection legislation in Illinois.
Granted, we don’t know why Obama voted against the 2003 bill that included a clause to protect abortion rights. The measure never made it out of committee, and comments from the meetings are not recorded. Nonetheless, we find it hard to fathom that the former senator expressed a belief that human life is disposable outside the womb.
Huckabee earns Three Pinocchios for his twisted interpretation of Obama’s no votes.
Huckabee was right: Obama did believe that at least some human lives, “even beyond the womb,” are “disposable and expendable.” He believed that for the law to treat them otherwise would be wrong. Whatever Hicks can or cannot fathom, Obama expressed that view both in his words and in his votes.
Hicks deserves credit, however, for noting that Obama has made false statements about his record on this issue. He even says that if he were grading his 2008 comments today, he would give him four Pinocchios. That’s an improvement over thePost’s performance in 2008, when it was the worst of a bad lot of “fact-checkers.” Perhaps when Obama’s third memoir comes out, the Postwill finally be ready to admit that Obama supported a right to infanticide for pre-viable infants, and pro-lifers had it right all along.