Friday, January 25, 2013

Review: BBC America's 'Ripper Street' a fine dose of mystery

Well-written and acted, the Victorian-era crime drama 'Ripper Street' takes us back to the moment when the fascination with serial killers began.

By Mary McNamara, Los Angeles Times Television Critic
January 19, 2013

"Ripper Street," the Victorian-era police procedural debuting on BBC America on Saturday, opens with chilling promise and on a decidedly modern note.
It's 1889 in London's notorious East End and a man leads a group of middle class English citizens to the sites of the Jack the Ripper killings. Six months since the body of Mary Jane Kelly, the fifth victim, was found, and already murder tourism thrives in Whitechapel.
It is interrupted, in this case, by the discovery of another woman butchered, which leads the members of local H division, including Det. Inspector Edmund Reid (Matthew Macfadyen), to fear that the Ripper has not died, emigrated or simply gone to ground as so many had hoped. Fending off the voracious press (some things really never change, do they?), Reid resists jumping to such headline-ready conclusions.

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With the reluctant aid of the suspiciously seedy U.S. Army surgeon/former Pinkerton agent/budding forensic examiner Homer Jackson (Adam Rothenberg), Reid quickly concludes that this bloody corpse is the work of another brutal murderer — a revelation oddly presented as a relief — and sets out to bring him to justice.
To do this he and his tough and ready detective sergeant (Jerome Flynn) must delve deep into the dim and slop-strewn East End, with its picaresque warrens of corruption and decay. If this sounds slightly familiar, it most certainly is — not only does "Ripper Street" faithfully follow BBC America's other period procedural "Copper" in form and function, it borrows scenes, music and even credit imagery so freely from Guy Ritchie's "Sherlock Holmes" series that you expect Robert Downey Jr., or at least Stephen Fry, to make a cameo.
This doesn't make "Ripper Street" a bad show, or even an overly derivative one. On the contrary, it is well-written and certainly well-acted, with plot and psychological twists as numerous and tantalizing as the streets on which they occur.
Macfadyen, known to BBC fans for "Spooks" and to film audiences as Keira Knightley's Mr. Darcy, instantly creates the sort of brilliant but haunted detective that drives most modern procedurals, and creator Richard Warlow mines place and period for all their era-turning worth.
In the premiere, the inevitably rhapsodized emergence of film is given a refreshingly disturbing back story in pornography, another nod to modern life in which that other new technology — the Internet — remains over-populated with the porn sites that helped establish it as a cultural force.

PHOTOS: Serial killers of the small screen

Beyond providing audiences the opportunity to consume a little history with their murder mystery, "Ripper Street" is a fortuitously timed origins story. Debuting days before Fox's much more heavily touted "The Following," "Ripper Street" may not draw the audience or the scrutiny of the Kevin Bacon vehicle, but it is most certainly a companion piece.
As that 1889 murder tour makes clear, this is where it all started, the fascination with serial killers, the need to make them more than a sum of their horrible actions. Others had murdered before Jack, but none captured the public's attention so intensely and with such longevity.
"Ripper Street" is every bit as violent and, at times, stomach-churning as "The Following," Reid every bit as damaged and obsessed as Bacon's FBI agent. It's just the hats and the walking sticks and the bodices (this being a period piece, prostitutes abound) make the crimes more "artistic" than "disturbing."
Warlow does not shy away from the general brutality of the times; indeed he wallows in it to the extent that every alley, every dwelling looks like a potential crime scene. But somehow "Ripper Street" seems less menacing than "The Following," steeped in sepia rather than blood.
Which is odd considering it deals with a much more dangerous and pervasive force: the rise of both the first rock-star murderer and, perhaps not coincidentally, the modern age.

The Logic of the Progressive Healthcare Death Cult

Return to the Article

January 25, 2013

By Daren Jonescu

Let us not waste another breath responding to the mock outrage with which progressives react to accusations such as Sarah Palin's "death panel" remark. Whether ObamaCare's Independent Payment Advisory Board should correctly be described as a "death panel" or a "cost-reduction system" is actually a stale semantics debate, given that when they are not acting outraged, leftists explain their real intentions quite clearly. Cutting to the chase, the proper question to ask is, "Why are progressives willing to condemn the old and infirm to death?"
A man drives up and down the highway looking for hitchhikers. Whenever he finds one, he stops to pick him up. He kindly warns the hitchhiker about the dangers of hitchhiking, and explains that he always stops for hitchhikers because he does not feel comfortable leaving them at the mercy of some strange driver. Then, once he has the hitchhiker securely in his car, he kills him.
Do we describe this driver as a Good, albeit confused, Samaritan trying to protect hitchhikers from the dangers of the highway?
Okay, that one is too easy. Let us suppose that instead of a single crazed killer, there is an entire club -- The Friends of Hitchhikers Society -- that has as its mission the total monopolization of the hitchhiker pick-up industry, in the name of protecting hitchhikers from the dangers of life on the highway. Up and down the roads they roam, thousands of them, trying to get to all the available hitchhikers before any non-Society member picks them up. And they do not kill all of them. Sometimes they faithfully drive the hitchhiker directly to his destination. Other times they drive him where he wants to go, though only after a circuitous, time-wasting trip.
When they are low on fuel, however, and fear they will not be able to reach the desired destination, they just kill the hitchhiker -- after all, they would not want him back out on the highway, endangered by all those unreliable, selfish drivers.
This group could not simply be described as homicidal maniacs. They would have to be regarded as something far more complex, and in a way more sinister. Operating in accordance with a perverse logic of their own, and seeking to sustain their preferred "highway safety" conditions through a cryptic system of rules which they perceive as somehow "just," "objective" and "fair," they would have to be seen as a kind of death cult.
What does this nightmare scenario have to do with government-controlled healthcare? Consider the following remarks from Taro Aso, the deputy prime minister in Japan's new socialist government, made during a government session on social security reform:
Heaven forbid if you are forced to live on when you want to die. I would wake up feeling increasingly bad knowing that [treatment] was all being paid for by the government.... The problem won't be solved unless you let them hurry up and die.
A few years ago, when Aso was Japan's prime minister, he spoke similarly:
I see people aged 67 or 68 at class reunions who dodder around and are constantly going to the doctor.... Why should I have to pay for people who just eat and drink and make no effort? I walk every day and do other things, but I'm paying more in taxes.
In the U.S., former labor secretary Robert Reich offered an audience of cheering young people the following example of what an "honest" presidential candidate would say about health care:
We're going to have to, if you're very old, we're not going to give you all that technology and all those drugs for the last couple of years of your life to keep you maybe going for another couple of months. It's too expensive... so we're going to let you die.
And of course the more prominent apostles of the death cult's moral code are merely reflecting the white papers and scholarly assessments of the "experts," as exemplified by Michael Lind's eminently "moderate" critique of the issue of health care rationing at Salon, back in October 2012. The talk among some Obama administration officials, such as "car czar" Steven Rattner in a New York Times op-ed, about the need to ration care for the weak and old, is insufficient, argues Lind. (Both Rattner and Lind are members of the leftist New America Foundation.) Rather, Lind suggests that while rationing "may be defended in some cases" -- Rattner's op-ed begins, "We need death panels" -- the most comprehensive solution is for government to set and control all prices for healthcare throughout the public and private spheres, as has been "tried and tested" in "all other advanced countries."
Thus, rationing care is just one very sensible part of a multifaceted solution; the value of denying basic property rights and voluntarism, however, must not be neglected. See how reasonable all of this can be made to sound, if only one ignores the logical perversity at the center of it?
As that perversity is so pervasive in today's public discourse on healthcare, perhaps it has become somewhat obscure. Let us state it clearly: the advocates of government-controlled healthcare wish to create a legal monopoly on the provision of treatment to the sick, and then to deny treatment to some on the grounds that "we" cannot afford to offer treatment to everyone.
When Robert Reich says "we're not going to give you all that technology and all those drugs for the last couple of years of your life," he is beginning from the assumption that "we" -- i.e., the government -- are the only possible or legitimate source of "that technology and those drugs."
When Taro Aso, trying to shame the elderly citizens of his highly honor-based society, says "I would wake up feeling increasingly bad knowing that [treatment] was all being paid for by the government," he is beginning from the assumption that all treatment will and must be provided by the state.
If you or I had offered to help someone get medical treatment, and then found that some of the costs were beyond our means, we would say, "I'm sorry, I can't afford this; you'll have to find other means of providing for your needs. I dearly hope you succeed."
When progressives believe that some medical treatment is beyond their (i.e., the state's) means, they say, "Sorry, you have to die."
Beginning from an inhuman premise -- namely that no individual has a right to self-preservation, but rather is to be preserved entirely at the discretion of the state -- they follow a train of reasoning that seems quite natural to them, and which leads to a conclusion that is entirely logical, if you accept their initial premise.
By creating an ever-thickening web of "social programs" designed to supplant self-reliance and familial responsibility in the minds and hearts of the people, the progressives gradually engender the habitual, almost instinctive acceptance of the ultimate implication of dependence, namely that the lord who giveth may also taketh away.
If the "we" in Robert Reich's "honest" presidential speech referred to "we, your children" -- as in "It's too expensive; we're going to let you die" -- everyone would recognize the disgusting brutality of the sentiment and the speaker. And if Taro Aso were speaking to his own father, saying, "You should wake up feeling increasingly bad knowing that your treatment is being paid for by your son," we would regard him as a repulsive character of the first order.
The reason these men and others of their ilk think they can get away with passing such lunatic rants off as "hard truth" is that they believe their years of propaganda have inured the broad public to their unstated premise that in the case of healthcare, "we" can only mean the state. As soon as you deny their premise, their reasoning collapses -- as does their mask of "objectivity."
If a government healthcare "board" is unable or unwilling to provide life-preserving treatment to patients judged to be a drain on the socialized system, then these patients must, in the name of the right to life, be allowed to pursue treatment by other means. And this, in turn, means that such "other means" must not be outlawed or restricted in such a manner as to prevent patients from pursuing them freely. In short, the need for rationing (i.e., rationing the days remaining to human beings), cost-reducing "advisory boards," or death panels arises only when government has effectively established a monopoly in the healthcare market.
This brings us back to my imaginary Friends of Hitchhikers Society. Like the progressive advocates of government-controlled healthcare, they are seeking to monopolize all access to a service, and then to use that monopoly as authority to decide which of their patrons will be allowed to live, and which forced to die. The difference, of course, is that the Friends of Hitchhikers cannot entirely prevent their potential victims from taking rides from other drivers, or prevent other drivers from picking up hitchhikers. In other words, they cannot establish a true monopoly.
Only the state can do that. And having done so, it becomes increasingly bold in taking liberties with its monopolistic control of medical treatment. Just look at the development of "end of life care" throughout the socialized medical world. (I have explained this here.)
Socialized medicine, the Mount Olympus of progressivism, does not merely run the risk of leading to "death panels." Death panels are, in a sense, its raison d'ĂȘtre -- specifically in the sense of being the perfect fulfillment of the perverse logic flowing from its initial, anti-human premise.
Progressivism is a death cult.

Page Printed from: at January 25, 2013 - 08:40:47 AM CST

Hillary's Little Helpers


Hillary’s Little Helpers

The cult of Clinton is alive and well.
The late Christopher Hitchens was one of Hillary Clinton’s most bullish critics. When Clinton was nominated to be secretary of state, he noted a chasm of opinion: “It still divides us,” he said on Hardball, “as between those of us who think that a job must be found for Hillary Clinton, that the country would be somehow disgraced if she wasn’t in an important position, and those of us who could do without her.”
Hitchens’ main concern was that Clinton would use her leverage as secretary of state to benefit foreign friends and cronies. He was vindicated the next year when James Riady, the Indonesian businessman who’d been barred from the United States for illegal contributions to Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign, mysteriously obtained a waiver andreturned to Arkansas. Say what you will about the Clintons, they don’t waste any time.
But Hitchens’ first point, that fealty to Hillary would divide us, was also prescient. That divide still exists today, albeit in a different form. In one camp are those who believe that Hillary should be judged on her merits and held accountable when necessary. In the other are those who admire her to the point of deification, who believe her critics are beneath her, and who scramble the fighter jets every time someone gives her a sour look.
After more than 20 years in the public eye, Clinton still has one of the most dedicated fan bases in American politics. And after she testified on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, they started fawning.
Clinton was “professional and authoritative for hours in the witness chair,” declared the New York Times. She “stood up to the raging bulls with grace and fire of her own,” gushed Joan Walsh. She “served up a potent brew of righteous outrage,” breathed Dana Milbank.
She was “steely but sometimes emotional” who began “with restraint” before she “choked up.” But her “anger boiled over” when she was questioned by the “rookie” and “intellectually underwhelming” Sen. Ron Johnson, along with other “unimpressive” critics who “don’t quite measure up to her and never will.” They like “nothing more than beating a dead horse” and revealed a “stature gap between Clinton and these possible 2016 rivals.”
Mercifully, Clinton “disarmed her critics,” including Sen. Rand Paul who “wasn’t intimidating but funny” and was “not worth wasting her breath.” She wore a “heavy green jacket, dark pants, and thick jacket.” At one point, she “wav[ed] her index finger.”
Oh, and her questioners were “angry men.” Angry white men, in fact. That alone should disqualify them from criticizing her.
Reading those quotes, it’s hard to escape the feeling of being vacuumed through a black hole into another solar system. Were these people watching the same hearing? Was another Hillary Clinton testifying before another Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday? Why are the walls starting to pulse and breathe?
Clinton was there to answer questions about an attack that left four Americans dead, embarrassed the United States, resulted in the dissemination of false information, destroyed the life of a now-imprisoned filmmaker, involved a suspicious cover-up of information, and called into question the Obama Administration’s ability to respond to foreign attacks.
She offered no answers, dodged questions, and blamed others. She claimed ignorance over cables from one of the most important ambassadors in the Middle East. She contradicted her own assistant secretary of state in blaming Republicans for security cuts. She stammered over America’s role in shipping weapons from Turkey to Libya. And when asked about the cause of the deadly attack, she shouted, “What difference, at this point, does it make?”
It was a shameless and unenlightening performance. And yet the press is obsessing over her theatrics and wardrobe choices. Anyone who disagrees is just, to dust off the 1990s term, a Clinton hater.
In fact, the opposite is true. Clinton’s Republican critics spent untold hours praising her. Sen. Marco Rubio was uncharacteristically cautious. Sen. John McCain, despite seeming angry, barreled through his questions and allowed Hillary to ignore them. There was no outbreak of Clinton hatred at the hearings. Instead there were skeptics trying, often feebly, to get answers.
But there was an outbreak of Clinton love among her supporters. What mattered wasn’t her substance or honesty, but the fact that she looked awesome. Her fans never seemed to consider that this attack was a failure of government and it was her responsibility to provide answers.
Then again, there’s a lot her fans never seem to consider. From Hillary lying about being attacked by snipers in Bosnia, to justifying remaining in the 2008 race by citing Bobby Kennedy’s assassination; from her involvement in her husband’s despicable pardon of Marc Rich and commutation of Puerto Rican terrorists, to her central role in Travelgate, commodities trading, and the numerous other scandals of the 1990s: none of it ever makes a dent in the Hillary love-fest. Her acolytes are unshakeable.
A colleague and were talking about the Kennedys the other day, and we were both pondering how a political family with so many moral failings still had such star-struck fans. Hillary benefits from a similar phenomenon. Her fan club is smaller than the Kennedys, and more centralized in Washington. But it’s just as devout, and just as impervious to inconvenient facts.
It’s unhealthy to lionize any politician. But the Hillary love has become a matter of faith, and it’s time for her admirers to shake the spell. She needs to answer questions about Benghazi and her Republican critics have every right to hold her accountable.
Photo: UPI

About the Author

Matt Purple is The American Spectator’s assistant managing editor.

Sergeant Rock-ette

Sergeant rock-ette

Last Updated:10:57 PM, January 24, 2013
Posted:10:11 PM, January 24, 2013
Listen up, men at arms: Stop whining. You sound like a bunch of girls.
Our military is not going to collapse because more combat-related jobs will be opened to women. I’ve heard instant griping from old vets and talk-show pundits since this story broke, but the fact is that the gals with guns are already in the fight to a far greater extent than yesteryear’s rules foresaw. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s decision largely recognizes existing reality.
Anyway, it’s going to happen, like it or not.
So those of us who care about our military and its combat effectiveness need to stop wailing and start working to make sure the admission of women to more combat-focused military specialties is done right.
Because thereisone serious danger, as well as a number of lesser concerns, that could do real damage if we screw this up.
First, it’sessentialthat physical standards not be lowered to allow women to qualify for point-of-the-bayonet positions. And not all of the women who apply will measure up.
Some of our trigger-pullers hump 120 pounds as they scale those Afghan ridges. You can’t give some soldiers a special dispensation to carry half that weight, or the other members of the squad or team have to lug even more. Want fairness? Start here.
The integration of women into our military to date has been overwhelmingly positive, but there have been undeniable downsides that we should learn from. One example: When the Army integrated basic training a generation ago, physical requirements were lowered for everybody (we pretended otherwise). We now have the chubbiest, tubbiest military since Sgt. Bilko. Physical toughness should be requirement No. 1 foreverysoldier or Marine.
(The gender integration of basic training also destroyed the folk-poetry tradition of magnificently obscene, hilariously inventive marching and running cadences — political correctness killed those wonderful “jodies.”)
On the other hand, the Neanderthals among us have to recognize that more than a few women in uniform have not only participated in combat, but performed heroically. In the Military Police Corps, convoy escort duty often led to ambushes and firefights in Iraq. No-nonsense female NCOs won medals for bravery leading men in combat.
What ultimately matters is who can fight. This can’t be about gender above all. It has to be competence-driven.
Which brings us to another potential problem: Our military already has barely disguised promotion quotas for women and minorities. And while our military should be (and long has been) about equal opportunity, it suffers when used for politically driven affirmative action.
Not only do promotions made for the sake of political correctness cheat competent soldiers, they also cast an unfair shadow over the many first-rate officers and NCOs who just happen to be women or minorities. Nor should we prolong a system in which a male soldier is fired and gone, but a female soldier has recourse to endless protests. That’s not fairness — that’s bigotry.
A last issue is that activists who want the world their way demand impossibly perfect behavior from those in uniform. Sorry: If you put physically rambunctious young people in prolonged intimate proximity to one another during their peak years of sexual energy, the platoon isn’t going to pass for a Baptist seminary. Sexual abuse cannot be tolerated, but we do have to show some understanding for stupidity and oafishness among 19-year-olds.
And the guy isn’t automatically the guilty party.
Back to the first point: Don’t lower standards, physical or ethical. If standards are maintained with rigor, the force will be OK. The services have until 2016 to pound out the details. Senior generals and admirals will have to show some backbone on this issue — and backbone hasn’t been their salient characteristic in recent years.
Who’s going to be disappointed? Some women will measure up, while others will do their best and fail (as men do). But the truly crestfallen are apt to be the activists who expect women to flock to combat-related positions in huge numbers.
They won’t. Surveys of military women show that, although dedicated, they don’t long to join the Infantry.
But to that GI Jane who proves she can hump her own gear plus the mortar base plate: You go, girl.
Ralph Peters is a retired Army enlisted man and officer.

Hillary Clinton's Dodgy Testimony

A lot of people in Washington apparently forgot how good Hillary Clinton is at not telling the truth.
Wednesday, in her testimony before the Senate and, later, the House, Clinton brilliantly fudged, dodged, and filibustered. Of course, she’s a pro. Clinton was slow-walking depositions, lawyering up, and shifting blame when many of her questioners were still civilians down on the farm.
Aided by a ridiculous format, she outfoxed most of the Republicans with ease.

Meanwhile, the Democrats, almost uniformly, seemed singularly interested in celebrating Mrs. Clinton as a global diva who somehow manages to carry the burden of her awesomeness with humility and grace. If smoking were still allowed in the Capitol, one could easily imagine her removing a cigarette from a gold case and tapping it nonchalantly on the witness table, and the entire Democratic caucus leaping over their desks for the chance to light it for her.

The most dramatic moment came early, when Wisconsin senator Ron Johnson tried to get Clinton to explain why the State Department blamed the September 11 terrorist attacks in Benghazi on an impromptu protest over an anti-Muslim video. In a rehearsed moment of spontaneous outrage, Clinton yelled back, “With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided to kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make?”

It is a measure of Clinton’s cult-like status on the left and among much of the press that this passed for a satisfactory, never mind impressive, response. But it’s also a tribute to Clinton’s gift for mendacity that it worked so well.

Even among the administration’s harshest critics, people seemed at a loss to fully explain what difference it makes whether the administration’s spin was true or not. For many, the answer is simply that government officials shouldn’t lie. That’s a necessary criticism, but hardly sufficient.

Just to be clear, Clinton lied and is still lying. When asked about the claim that the attack was sparked by a protest over a video, she responded, “I did not say . . . that it was about the video for Libya.”
That’s simply untrue. When she stood by the caskets of the four Americans killed in Libya, she directly blamed an “awful Internet video that we had nothing to do with.” Afterward, she reportedly told the father of Tyrone Woods, the former Navy SEAL who was killed in the attack, “We will make sure the person who made that film is arrested and prosecuted.” Why tell the man that if the video had nothing to do with it?

Moreover, Clinton was part of an administration that crafted an entire PR strategy to blame these attacks on “an awful Internet video.” White House press secretary Jay Carney was unequivocal: This was a “response to a video, a film we have judged to be reprehensible and disgusting.” In his address to the United Nations, President Obama mentioned the video six times but al-Qaeda once. When he appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman, he blamed the video directly. U.N. ambassador Susan Rice went on five Sunday shows blaming the video. All of this happened when they already knew it was not true on the day of the attack, and even the president of Libya had publicly called the protest explanation ridiculous.

But again, the lying, while outrageous, is incidental to the real offense, which is twofold. First, why did the administration lie? Well, it wanted to conceal its utter failure to prepare for terrorist attacks on September 11 — which is like being surprised by Christmas falling on December 25. Also, the Obama administration, by which I mean the Obama campaign, was desperate to protect its hyped record of fighting terrorism. A “spontaneous” attack invited not by the administration’s shortcomings but by some nutty video was just the ticket.

Indeed, on this score, Clinton was true to her word. While none of the murderers have been apprehended, the filmmaker is in jail, the picture of his arrest splashed across the globe. 

Which brings us to the second part: the nature of the lie. Remember, not all lies are equally harmful. In this case, the U.S. government responded to the murder of four Americans by treating our constitutional rights as part of the problem. A former teacher of constitutional law, Obama was happy to watch the country argue new limits on free expression and the necessity of giving bloodthirsty savages and terrorists a heckler’s veto on what Americans can do or say.
Clinton was in on that lie, and that makes all the difference in the world.
— Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. You can write to him by e-mail at, or via Twitter@JonahNRO.©2013 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The '40 Percent' Myth

Gun-control advocates have recently been throwing around an impressive new number. President Obama used it last Wednesday, claiming: “as many as 40 percent of guns are purchased without a background check.” Vice President Biden and everyone from the New York Times to the Wall Street Journal to USA Today repeatedly use it. That “fact” provided the principal support for his first announced gun-control proposal, “universal background checks.” But unless you include family inheritances and gifts as “purchases,” it is simply false.
The Brady Act background checks currently prevent someone who buys from a federally licensed dealer from buying a gun if he has a felony, or in many cases a misdemeanor conviction, or has been involuntarily committed for mental illness. Prior to Brady, federal law merely required that people sign a statement stating that they did not have a criminal record or a history of mental problems under threat of perjury. Obama’s 40 percent claim makes it look like a lot of gun buyers are avoiding these checks.

Actually, the number reported was a bit lower, 36 percent, and as we will see the true number of guns “sold” without check is closer to 10 percent. More important, the number comes from a 251-person survey on gun sales two decades ago, early in the Clinton administration. More than three-quarters of the survey covered sales before the Brady Act instituted mandatory federal background checks on February 28, 1994. In addition, guns are not sold in the same way today that they were sold two decades ago.

The number of federally licensed firearms dealers (FFLs) today is only a fraction of what it was. Today there are only 118,000; while back in 1993 there were over 283,000. Smaller dealers, many operating out of their homes, were forced out by various means, including much higher costs for licenses.

The survey asked buyers if they thought they were buying from a licensed firearms dealer. While all FFLs do background checks, those perceived as being FFLs were the only ones counted. Yet, there is much evidence that survey respondents who went to the very smallest FFLs, especially the “kitchen table” types, had no inkling that the dealer was actually “licensed.” Many buyers seemed to think that only “brick and mortar” stores were licensed dealers, and thus reported not buying from an FFL when in fact they did.

But the high figure comes primarily from including such transactions as inheritances or gifts from family members. Putting aside these various biases, if you look at guns that were bought, traded, borrowed, rented, issued as a requirement of the job, or won through raffles, 85 percent went through FFLs; just 15 percent were transferred without a background check. 

If you include these transfers either through FFLs or from family members, the remaining transfers falls to 11.5 percent.
We don’t know the precise number today, but it is hard to believe that it is above single digits. 

Nevertheless, even if few purchases avoid background checks, should we further expand the checks? It really depends on how the system would be implemented.

We have to realize that the current system of background checks suffers from many flaws, some causing dangerous delays for people who suddenly need a gun for self-defense, such as a woman being stalked by an ex. In addition to crashes in the computers doing the checks, 8 percent of background checks are not accomplished within two hours, with almost all of these delays taking three days or longer. 
Obama made many other false statements during his talk. He asserted that “over the last 14 years [background checks] kept 1.5 million of the wrong people from getting their hands on a gun.” But these were only “initial denials,” not people prevented from buying guns.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms dropped over 94 percent of those “initial denials” after just preliminary reviews. Virtually all the remaining cases were dropped after further investigation by ATF field offices or the Department of Justice. Few of these “initial denials,” 62 people or about 0.1 percent, involved strong enough evidence to be consideration for prosecution. Just 13 pleaded guilty or were convicted.
Delays are undoubtedly just an inconvenience for most people buying guns. But for a few, it makes a huge difference in their ability to defend themselves against assailants. Indeed, my own research suggests these delays might actually contribute to a slight net increase in violent crime, particularly rapes.

Clearly, criminals are seldom stopped by the checks. That isn’t really too surprising because even when guns were banned in Washington, D.C., and Chicago, or even in island nations such as the U.K., Ireland, and Jamaica, criminals still got guns and murder rates rose after the bans. 
No amount of background checks on private transfers would have stopped the Connecticut, Wisconsin, and Colorado massacres.
Expanded background checks might well be reasonable, but only if the current system is fixed. Passing laws may make people feel better, but they can actually prevent people from defending themselves. 

— John Lott is a former chief economist at the United States Sentencing Commission and the author of the expanded third edition of More Guns, Less Crime (University of Chicago Press, 2010).

The Blood-Smeared Glass Ceiling


The Blood-Smeared Glass Ceiling

For cowardice beyond the call of duty, Leon Panetta has shamed himself and his country.
In one of his last acts as Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta today will revoke the last of the policies that prevent women from serving in combat arms.
Make no mistake about it: this action isn’t about civil rights, equal opportunity, or any of the laudable things America has done in the past fifty years to remove false barriers within the military. This is different. It’s a purely political act that will make our military — and the military families liberals claim to venerate — much weaker than they are today.
Panetta is acting in response to feminists’ demands that women be able to serve in any capacity men do because they will be denied promotion to the higher ranks if they lack combat experience. It’s true that there is a huge number of women of flag rank among the services, some at the top four-star rank. But there surely is a “glass ceiling” in the combat arms that women haven’t broken through.
The problem with this statement of the issue is that the military “glass ceiling” is streaked with blood. If women are to be warriors — and thus earn the right to command other warriors — they have to train like men, live like men, and be able to survive the intense dangers of the modern battlefield as many men do. If they don’t, they cannot gain the respect and admiration that commanders of warriors must have to be effective. Should they be permitted to do that?
There are two components to the question. First and foremost is whether the presence of women will add to or detract from the readiness and capability of the unit to perform its mission. The second is a moral question: Will having women serve in harm’s way benefit our military and society at large?
The question of benefit to society has been mooted politically. To even suggest that women are different from men in important ways — such as the instincts for motherhood and nurturing — is to be outside the realm of permissible political thought. To ask whether those natural instincts should be subordinated to the skills of war is unthinkable, at least to those who want to “gender neutralize” the military.
So we are left with the first question, which has to be answered with a resounding “no.”
Even the Clinton administration had sense enough to keep women out of most of the combat arms. In 1991, legislation lifted the historic ban on American women serving in combat. Congress, under pressure from feminists, declared that women should be able to serve on combat ships and in combat aircraft and told the Defense Department to come up with a scheme to implement it and other criteria for women in combat.
In 1993, Clinton Defense Secretary Les Aspin promulgated DoD policy that allowed women to serve in all but a few categories. First, from assignments at lower than brigade level in units whose principal purpose was combat. Next, where the cost of providing women privacy (in berthing on ships, for example) was prohibitive. In addition, they could be prohibited from serving in units co-located with combat units.
Women were barred, under Aspin’s policy, from long-range reconnaissance and special forces and where job-related physical requirements would necessarily exclude the vast majority of women. Note that all women were barred: there was no exception made for those few who could meet the tough physical and mental standards it takes to qualify for spec ops.
Over the intervening twenty years, women have served in more and more combat roles. They serve as fighter pilots in the Navy and Air Force, and were aboard every Navy warship except submarines until, just a little over a year ago, they were allowed to serve on subs as well. The Army has gradually — and in contravention of Aspin’s directives — allowed women into more and more combat roles.
Panetta’s action will probably complete the destruction of the warrior culture on which the success of our military depends. That culture, developed over the past two thousand years or so, is not uniquely American but our brand of it is. Our warriors take pride in what they do because they do it for America and because they do it better than anyone else. Thus, one of the most important parts of that culture is the objective standards someone has to meet to qualify to join the combat arms.
Every Marine in a rifle platoon, every pilot in a squadron, every special operator has had to meet the standards set for all the others. At least they did until the services began to cave under political pressure to enable women to join combat units.
Perhaps the worst example is what happened to the Navy after the 1990 “Tailhook Convention” scandal in which naval aviators acted like, well, every fighter pilot who ever lived. They drank too much and did dumb things such as publicly shaving the legs of some too-willing ladies they’d invited. It was a frat party worthy of Animal House, but no worse.
Liberals — led by California’s Babsy Boxer and a few others — raised a media feeding frenzy and the Navy’s pusillanimous leaders caved in to their demands. The result was that the Navy let its standards slip in order to shove women into combat roles. Lt. Kara Hultgreen was pushed through training and certified for combat, the first female naval aviator to reach that qualification. But she was certified despite the fact that her superiors knew she wasn’t ready. Hultgreen was killed when she lost control of her aircraft attempting to land on the USS Abraham Lincoln in 1994. The Navy learned its lesson, and its standards were restored.
Eleven years ago I wrote about the danger of “gender neutralizing” the objective tests for entry into combat arms. That article reported on a British Ministry of Defence study authored by Brigadier Seymour Monroe. In that study, Monroe reported that when the British were trying to fit women into combat roles, they “gender neutralized” — i.e., lowered — their standards so that women who couldn’t qualify under the men’s standards did so under their own.
Who can doubt that the Obama Pentagon will do exactly the same? Why should the men accept anyone — woman or man — who can’t make the same grade they did? They shouldn’t, and they won’t. It will destroy unit cohesion and pride.
That is the principal objection to what the Obama Pentagon is up to. And it will have two effects, both of which are a threat to our national security.
First, by pushing standards down to enable women to qualify, Obama’s Pentagon will reduce the units’ ability to fight. Our guys — and I use the term with malice aforethought — win because they’re better trained and more capable than the enemy. Whenever you reduce the qualifications, you reduce the level of capability and the unit’s ability to win. To lower standards is to increase the risk of defeat.
Second, whether or not standards are relaxed, allowing women into combat arms will break the spirit of many of our warriors whether they be ground pounders, airmen, or sailors.
Our guys do what they do — and do it so well — in part because they’re guys who are members of the most exclusive club in the world: the warriors, the real 1%’ers. Their club’s membership has been 100% men since before Thermopylae. These men understand that they are different — mentally and physically — from women and want to stay that way. They have wives and girlfriends at home. They don’t have them as fellow warriors who they train and fight alongside.
To put women among them would force them to break with their ancient customs, traditions, and beliefs. In short, it would fundamentally change what they are and how they function in combat. The price will be paid in resignations, in declining re-enlistments, and in lives and battles lost.
There’s one more aspect to this, which is the strain Panetta’s act will put on military families. When he decided to allow women to serve on submarines, a lot of Navy wives were really angry. They know their men, and they know that our elite submarine force would become a fleet of submersible Love Boats, and, in too many instances, they have.
What higher price will more military families pay when women are allowed into the rest of the combat arms, serving in remote places in tough conditions with the men beside them?
Panetta’s decision has to be stopped by House Republicans. They can do it if they bar the use of any authorized or appropriated funds for DoD to implement the Panetta policy, a provision that should be in every bill they pass until it becomes law. If they don’t, we should throw the lot of them out.
That’s so short and clear that not even the House can muck it up. Or maybe I’m giving them too much credit.

About the Author

Jed Babbin served as a Deputy Undersecretary of Defense under George H.W. Bush. He is the author of several bestselling books including Inside the Asylum and In the Words of Our Enemies. You can follow him on Twitter @jedbabbin.

Discussing Islam: A Religious Taboo
Can we at least agree that reports of al-Qaeda’s death have been greatly exaggerated? You’ll recall that Peter Bergen, a director at the New America Foundation and the national-security analyst for CNN, began pronouncing AQ dead last summer. At the Aspen Institute, he even gave a speech titled “Time to Declare Victory: Al Qaeda Is Defeated.” He defended this thesis repeatedly, including in a debate with me on Wolf Blitzer’s show on CNN.
President Obama has not gone quite that far. Prior to the election, in stump speeches round the country, he said al-Qaeda had been “decimated.” And even in his inaugural address this week he claimed that “a decade of war is now ending.” (He also spoke of “peace in our time” — a phrase made infamous by British prime minister Neville Chamberlain at Munich in 1938. Is it possible Obama did not know that? Worse, is it possible that he did?)
The evidence that AQ is alive and lethal is abundant. To cite just a few examples: the French ground war in Mali against AQIM (al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb) and associated forces, the hostage-taking in Algeria by self-proclaimed jihadists closely linked to AQ, the surge of AQ-connected fighters in Syria, and, of course, the 9/11/12 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi by AQ-affiliated groups.
I do not stress this to disparage anyone. Nor do I intend to pat on the back those of us who have maintained that AQ and other jihadist groups are neither dead nor dying but rather evolving in ways that merit both study and concern. Serious analysts sometimes arrive at wrong conclusions. But serious analysts acknowledge their errors, attempt to determine what data or misassumptions led them astray, and work to reshape their narrative in conformance with reality. Serious analysts are acutely aware that no strategic mistake is more dangerous than telling yourself you are winning when you are not.
Last weekend, I spoke with someone I’ll identify only as a senior American military official. It required no prompting from me for him to express his frustration over top officials in the Obama administration’s continuing to insist that the global conflict is “receding.” Challenging that notion is difficult because within the administration it is forbidden to speak or write openly about the ideology of those fighting us. To do so, the official said, would be “inflammatory,” requiring discussion of the role of fundamentalist Islamic theology. In a sense — the literal sense — what we have here is a religious taboo.
The irony is glaring: American officials can kill our enemies (mostly with drones). They just can’t analyze, criticize, or challenge the beliefs that motivate them. Fighting a kinetic war is permitted, but waging a cognitive war is prohibited. If we are to avoid defeat, we need to be fighting both.
Closely related to the “AQ is dead” thesis is the “Muslim Brotherhood is moderate” thesis. The most recent contradictory evidence: videos of Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi three years ago, when he was a leader of the MB, urging parents to “nurse our children and our grandchildren on hatred for them, for Zionists, for Jews. The hatred must go on for God and as a form of worshipping him.” In addition, he called Jews and Israelis “the descendants of apes and pigs.”
Here in Israel, where I’m spending a few days reporting, few people were surprised by those remarks. And, to be fair, vicious and even genocidal Jew-hatred has echoed throughout the Middle East at least since World War II, when Arab lands were barraged by Nazi propaganda (as meticulously documented  by historian Jeffrey Herf) — and within secular as much as Islamist regimes. That fact, however, can hardly be reassuring.
Among the reasons for Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s (narrow) reelection victory this week: A majority of Israelis have come to the conclusion that at this moment no Palestinian who wields power is willing to negotiate with them, much less make peace with them. That situation will not change as long as so many Arabs and Muslims deny Israelis both their history (Israelis are, unquestionably, living in a part of their ancient homeland) and their humanity (which is what is intended when Morsi talks of “apes and pigs”).
Perhaps you’ll object that Morsi has not broken Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel and that he helped broker a ceasefire in the most recent battle between Hamas and Israel. I would respond: Morsi is not stupid. He is not prepared to win a war against Israel today or tomorrow. He is desperately in need of financial aid from the U.S. He is putting his interests ahead of his values — for now.
At the same time, he’s working to reconcile Hamas and Fatah, the factions that rule Gaza and the West Bank respectively, and to create a united Palestinian government. Hamas, of course, is committed to the elimination of Israel — and to the elimination of as many Israelis as possible. Hamas is not planning to moderate that position. On the contrary, it expects Palestinian president and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas to more openly support “resistance,” which means the use of terrorism and other violent means to weaken and eventually annihilate Israel. (Abbas recently told a Lebanese television station that before World War II, the Nazis and the Zionists collaborated.)
Can we at least agree that reports of the death of the peace process have not been exaggerated — and that Israelis’ constructing apartment buildings in and around Jerusalem, their capital, is not the reason why?
— Clifford D. May is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on national security.

Panetta Lifts Ban on Women Serving in Combat

Obama Ignores Deadly Risks to Women in Combat

Posted By Arnold Ahlert On January 24, 2013 @ 12:45 am In Daily Mailer,FrontPage | 14 Comments
It didn’t take long for the Obama administration to advance a pernicious piece of its promised radical agenda. Two days after the president laid out his far-left vision during the inauguration, senior defense officials announced that Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta will lift the military’s ban on women serving in combat. The move overturns a 1994 provision that prohibited them from being assigned to ground combat units. Panetta has given the various service branches until 2016 to come up with exemptions, and/or make any arguments about what roles should still reman closed to women. Thus, another bit of gender radicalism has been shoved down the nation’s throat through executive fiat — and this one is sure to have deadly consequences.

It is precisely those deadly consequences — especially for servicewomen — that are irrelevant to feminists and their enablers, who have long pushed the idea that men and women are essentially interchangeable. Nothing could be further from the truth, and combat is where those differences could produce deadly results. Ground combat is arguably the most physically grueling activity in which one can be engaged, and despite what the feminists would like Americans to believe about equality, science says otherwise: men have almost twice the upper-body strength as women.

This is a critically relevant consideration. According to a 2009 article in National Defense Magazine, a soldier on a three-day mission in Afghanistan carries approximately 130 pounds of gear, and efforts to lighten that load have not succeeded. This is primarily due to the reality that the essentials of food, water, and ammunition cannot be replaced with lighter items. Other equipment, such as sensors, tripods, cold weather clothing, boots, sleeping bags, flashlights, and protective eyewear, have all been made lighter. But the fact remains that the average soldier is expected to carry enormous amounts of weight, simply to better ensure his chances for survival. Furthermore, a soldier must carry that weight even during periods of intense fighting. The overwhelming majority of women are not capable of meeting such standards.

What is the Pentagon likely to do? In New York City, when most female applicants to the Fire Department were unable to meet the strength requirements, feminists filed a successful lawsuit, altering the standards so that a number of otherwise unqualified women could pass the test. Thus it is likely the Pentagon will pursue a similar strategy of “gender-norming” for the entire service that is already part of the Army Physical Fitness Test. That test requires proficiency in push-ups, sit-ups and a two-mile run. For sit-ups both genders have the same requirements. For push-ups and the run, the grading scale for women is easier.

Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness, illuminates the folly of pursuing such double standards. “Revised ‘warrior training’ programs sound impressive, but gender-normed standards emasculate the concept by assuring ‘success’ for average female trainees,” she wrote in 2005, when the Army began a surreptitious program of putting women in smaller, direct ground-combat units. Donnelly then added the critically proper perspective to the mix. “Soldiers know that there is no gender-norming on the battlefield,” she explains.

There is also nothing that will eliminate the natural differences between men and women that play out in a number of other ways. Few things are more important for enduring the rigors of combat than morale and combat unit cohesion. It is ludicrous to believe that mixed units will be immune to the potentially de-stabilizing effects of sexual attraction. And as night follows day, sexual attraction leads to pregnancy. In 2009, Major General Anthony Cucolo, running military operations in Northern Iraq, was forced to deal with the serious downside of that reality. As a result, he initiated a policy under which troops who got pregnant–and the men who got them pregnant–faced a court martial and  possible jail time. Cucolo issued the directive because he was losing too many women with critical skills. “I’ve got a mission to do, I’m given a finite number of soldiers with which to do it and I need every one of them,” he contended.

Yet consensual sex is only part of the problem. A military report released in January 2012 revealed a stunning 64 percent increase in violent sex crimes within the U.S. Army since 2006. The most frequent sex crimes for 2011 included “rape, sexual assault, and forcible sodomy.” The report further noted that while only 14 percent of the Army is comprised of women, they represent 95 percent of all sex crime victims.

It stretches the bounds of credulity to believe that sexual tension, regardless of the legitimate or illegitimate motivation behind it, would be lessened under front line, life-threatening combat conditions. Nor is it inconceivable to think that close personal relationships of a sexual nature would make some soldiers take the kind of unnecessary risks to save a lover that might not only endanger themselves, but their entire unit.

There is another reality that feminists and their enablers fail to acknowledge. As it currently stands, there is little appetite demonstrated by women themselves for serving in combat units. Army Research Institute (ARI) surveys taken from 1993-2001 revealed that the majority of military women were strongly opposed to combat assignments–so much so that the ARI dropped the question from its survey the following year. Less than a month ago, a Huffington Post article regarding interviews with “a dozen female soldiers and Marines” revealed that they had “little interest in the toughest fighting jobs,” contending “they’d be unable to do them.” When the Marines asked women to go through their infantry training course last year, only two women volunteered. Both of them failed to get through it. No one volunteered for the next one. Army Sgt. Cherry Sweat, who did a tour in Iraq installing communications equipment, reveals a sentiment that most military women apparently share. “The job I want to do in the military does not include combat arms,” she said. “I enjoy supporting the soldiers. The choice to join combat arms should be a personal decision, not a required one,” she added.

Lory Manning of Women’s Research and Education Institute thinks women’s interest in assuming combat roles will be higher than anticipated. “If you asked someone in 1985 about going to sea, she would have been thinking: `Girls don’t do that and so I don’t want to do that,’” Manning contended. “But when push came to shove, they did it, they loved it.” That is a ridiculous comparison. Going to sea is hardly the same as front-line combat. Moreover, when “push comes to shove,” it is highly doubtful that there is more than a microscopic number of soldiers who “love” being in the mortal danger that combat engenders.

Unfortunately, such realities are no match for those who champion diversity. Putting women in combat units “reflects the reality of 21st century military operations,” said Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), in announcing his support for the program. No doubt he and others see it as the next logical step following last year’s announcement, opening 14,000 combat-related positions to female soldiers. At that time, the Pentagon still insisted on keeping women out of direct combat roles, even as they noted they were committed to lifting such barriers eventually. At the time, they claimed that making such sweeping changes would be difficult in time of war. Another factor was the lifting of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy allowing gays to serve openly. Allowing women to serve on the front lines at the same time was considered one big social change too many.

No longer. The new policy expands the number of military jobs available to women from last year’s 14,000 to more than 230,000 positions. Part of the impetus for the change may have been two lawsuits filed last year challenging the combat ban, but according to a senior military official familiar with the discussions by the Joint Chiefs, the ultimate conclusion was that this is the time to “maximize women’s service in the military.”

Writing for the Washington Post three days ago, Elaine Donnelly reiterated her position that putting women in combat is a terrible idea, presciently noting that “even the if the results of the Marines’ research do not support unrealistic theories of feminists who consider land combat to be just another career opportunity, administration officials might press their egalitarian agenda anyway.” She further noted that the “Pentagon-endorsed Military Leadership Diversity Commission (MLDC) has called for an end to women’s land combat exemptions, based on a new definition of ‘diversity.’”

That egalitarian agenda, like so many other progressive agendas, may produce an unintended consequence. The 1981 Rostker v. Goldberg Supreme Court case exempted women from being part of the nation’s Selective Service System. America no longer drafts civilians into the military, but as Donnelly notes, the elimination of such combat exemptions will involve civilian women registering with Selective Service. She then makes a recommendation, not only anathema to the Obama administration, but one that only three days later was ultimately ignored. “Congress, which represents the American people, should not be shut out of this decision-making process,” she wrote. If the draft is re-instated, one wonders how the American public will take to having their daughters every bit as vulnerable as their sons to forcible conscription. A rising tide of Islamist terror in the Middle East and now in Africa could provide the answer.

Once again, elections have consequences. Barack Obama has made it clear that part of his progressive agenda includes forcing gender radicalism down America’s throat, absent any input from Congress. Once, the United States military was all about projecting lethal power around the globe to protect America’s interests. Now, it is all about promoting diversity, inclusion and equality of outcome, irrespective of military readiness and cohesion. For progressives, who have elevated political correctness above all else–national security included–such radical egalitarianism is cause for celebration. For Donnelly and countless other Americans, it is anything but. “No one’s injured son should have to die on the streets of a future Fallujah because the only soldier near enough to carry him to safety was a five-foot-two 110-pound woman,” she contends.

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