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No Consumer Choice, Please. We’re Coloradans.

It turns out that if you use Uber in Colorado, you might have the car you’re riding in pulled over. You might have your own license examined by police (remember, you are a passenger, not a driver), you might be placed in danger, and you might have to deal with a police officer who doesn’t want to “debate the law” when you ask him whether you are committing an illegal act. Don’t believe that any of this might happen? Read this.

The Denver police have apologized for the behavior of the officer who precipitated this entire brouhaha, and that is all fine and good. But why did the brouhaha ever have to erupt in the first place? And while I am asking questions, what is it about Uber that causes people to lose their minds?

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Quote of the Day

Imagine if I were to tell you there is a large group of government employees, with generous salaries and ridiculously cushy retirement pensions covered by the taxpayer, who enjoy incredible job security and are rarely held accountable even for activities that would almost certainly earn the rest of us prison time. When there is proven misconduct, these government employees are merely reassigned and are rarely dismissed. The bill for any legal settlements concerning their errors? It, too, is covered by the taxpayers. Their unions are among the strongest in the country.

No, I’m not talking about public-school teachers.

I’m talking about the police.

We conservatives recoil at the former; yet routinely defend the latter — even though, unlike teachers, police officers enjoy an utter monopoly on force and can ruin — or end — one’s life in a millisecond.

[. . .]

On Thursday in Staten Island, an asthmatic 43-year-old father of six, Eric Garner, died after a group of policemen descended on him, placing him in a chokehold while attempting to arrest him for allegedly selling cigarettes. A bystander managed to capture video in which Garner clearly cries out, “I can’t breathe!” Even after releasing the chokehold (chokeholds, incidentally, are prohibited by NYPD protocol), the same officer then proceeds to shove and hold Garner’s face against the ground, applying his body weight and pressure on Garner, ignoring Garner’s pleas that he cannot breathe. Worse yet, new video shows at least eight officers standing around Garner’s lifeless, unconscious body.

Who can defend this?

A.J. Delgado. And of course, the answer is that no one can defend this. As Delgado says, “many police officers do heroic works and, yes, many are upstanding individuals who serve the community bravely and capably.” But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t bad apples in the bunch, and certainly, conservatives should speak out against police brutality and the abuse of police power, which occurs more often than many care to admit, and which in fact amounts to an abuse of governmental power.

My (Partial) Change of Heart on the Death Penalty

Read this. I’ll wait.

Done? Good. Let me put out the fact that I do believe that there are some crimes so heinous, so horrible, that the state is justified in taking the life of the guilty party. Let me also put out the fact that I believe capital punishment is fully constitutional, so long as Eighth Amendment prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishments are not violated.

That last part, as you might imagine, is somewhat important. If the method of execution is cruel, heinous, painful, and/or amounts to torture, I have no problem whatsoever in saying that it is unconstitutional as a consequence. So when I read about Joseph Wood’s case–and for that matter, when I read about Clayton Lockett’s case–I have what I believe are entirely justifiable concerns that in our method of punishing the worst offenders, we may be violating the clear, plain text meaning of the Eighth Amendment.

I recognize that there are people who say that Wood did not suffer, that he was “snoring” or “comatose,” and that as a consequence, there are no Eighth Amendment violations to be found in this case. I would certainly hope that is the case, but there are other witnesses who say otherwise. What if that latter group is right? I imagine that there are those whose response to that last question might be “we don’t care. Wood committed a horrible crime. If he suffered while dying, so much the better.” While I can understand the sentiments that lead to that answer, I can’t accept them as valid. We do not execute in order to exact revenge, and there is that whole pesky Eighth Amendment thing to worry about.

As the New York Times article alludes to, the major reason we are having problems with lethal injection all of the sudden is that traditionally used barbiturates are no longer available, and the substitute barbiturates we are using may not be doing the job when it comes to alleviating the suffering of the condemned and making sure that an execution takes place quickly and humanely. Perhaps in the future, we might be able to solve the problems posed by the lack of these barbiturates, and in doing so, make lethal injection a humane form of execution once again. If we do so, I will likely support the use of lethal injection in executing the worst kind of criminal offenders.

But until that happens, I cannot and will not sign on to a method of punishment that may very well be cruel and unusual in its application, according to entirely plausible and credible reports. And no, that doesn’t mean that I don’t care about the victims of a crime, or that I have some kind of undue pity for genuinely bad people. What it does mean is that however bad a crime and however nasty a criminal, society’s response should not be a prolonged, agonizing method of execution that essentially involves torture in its application. And furthermore, what it means is that while I want us as a society to respond swiftly, effectively, and with certainty to the commission of crimes–especially horrible ones–I don’t want us to forsake our own Constitution and become savage and inhumane in the process.

Halbig v. Burwell Was Not an “Absurd” Result

Ilya Somin explains why:

In its recent controversial decision in Halbig v. Burwell, the US Court of appeals for the DC Circuit ruled that people purchasing health insurance under the Affordable Care Act are only eligible for federal tax credits if they do so through an exchange established by a state. Although the plain text of the ACA indicates that tax credits are only available to those who purchase insurance in an “[e]xchange established by the State,” many critics claim that the court should have refused to enforce this language because it creates an “absurd” result because it undermines the ACA’s goal of expanding access to health insurance.

There is indeed Supreme Court precedent stating that courts can sometimes refuse to enforce the plain meaning of a statute where doing so creates an absurd result. But, as Judge Griffith’s D.C. Circuit opinion emphasizes (quoting an earlier DC Circuit ruling), it is limited to cases where enforcement of the text would “render[ the] statute nonsensical or superfluous or . . . create an outcome so contrary to perceived social values that Congress could not have intended it.” In this case, however, the result is far from nonsensical. Indeed, the DC Circuit’s interpretation of the ACA reflects the sort of “cooperative federalism” approach that left of center academics and policy experts often praise in other contexts.

Read the whole thing, which is quite informative. Read as well Ed Whelan’s reply to Rick Hasen.

Peter Suderman on the Halbig Case

Earlier coverage of the Halbig case here. As Suderman points out, the challenge to the federal subsidies was entirely plausible and legitimate, and as a bonus, yet another court found that the Obama administration was in the process of breaking the law. As referenced in my earlier post, I know that there are people who are dismissive of the Halbig decision. But Suderman offers a number of reasons not to be, and shows that the challenge to the Obamacare subsidies is a great deal more substantive than critics of Halbig think or would prefer to believe.

Hamas Places Rockets in UNRWA Schools

The United Nations Relief Workers Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has schools in Gaza. Hamas has decided to place rockets in those schools. No, Hamas is not expressly named in the UNRWA denunciation (it constitutes cowardice for UNRWA to fail to denounce Hamas by name), but no one else is placing rockets amongst Palestinian civilians and deliberately putting them in danger in order to score some kind of propaganda coup against Israel. I am sure that there are some lunatics who will claim that Israel placed the rockets so that international community can blame Hamas, but I trust that the vast majority of people out there–and certainly just about all of this blog’s readership–won’t take such deranged claims seriously.

It really does give one an idea of just how incredibly monstrous Hamas is that they would deliberately and regularly endanger the very Palestinians it purports to champion. I know that there are those who try to find moral equivalence between Israel’s actions and those of its enemies. That job was never easy to begin with, and it just got harder. Between Israel and it’s enemies, there can be no doubt whatsoever that the former has much more respect for innocent human life than does the latter.

Shocking Stories of Anti-Semitism

Read this, and this. I must confess to being a little confused; I have, after all, been repeatedly assured that “anti-Semitism scarcely exists in the West.” Amazing how depressingly frequent the occurrence of something supposedly “scarce” can be, eh?

Relatedly, be sure to read Damon Linker’s open letter to Andrew Rosenthal, in which Linker employs magnificent scorn to magnificent effect. A taste:

As editorial page editor of the New York Times, you’re a very busy man. But I was so excited by Timothy Egan’s column from last weekend that I couldn’t resist writing to thank you for your good work — and to pass along a handful of proposals for some op-eds of my own. (My bosses at The Week are a little skittish about taking on the kind of bold pieces Egan has inspired me to write.)

It was so thrilling to read in the pages of America’s leading newspaper about how “faith-based fanatics” are making this the “summer of the violent God,” with religious zealots rampaging around the globe.

It really was the audacity of the comparisons that inspired me. I loved how Egan showed the underlying connection among all these events — Muslim extremists in Nigeria kidnapping and enslaving girls to prevent them from receiving an education; Muslim militants of ISIS expelling Christians from the Iraqi city of Mosul, where they’ve lived for 1,700 years; the “rage that moved Hamas to lob rockets on birthday parties in Tel Aviv, and Israelis to kill children playing soccer on the beach in Gaza”; and Supreme Court justices ruling that women at some companies may have to pay out of pocket for some forms of contraception.

That’s what punditry is all about: showing how everything fits together. One of my heroes, the sociologist Daniel Bell, defined an intellectual (and what is an opinion journalist if not an intellectual?) as someone who practices and perfects the art of drawing distinctions and highlighting continuities where others haven’t noted them before. Egan did that masterfully. I, for one, had never noticed the deep and ominous parallels between Samuel Alito giving the conservative Christian owners of Hobby Lobby a limited exemption from government regulations and Boko Haram burning dozens of churches to the ground during Sunday services.

But the parallels are there, and they are undeniable. Religion is what connects them. And thanks to Egan’s reasoning, I’m now inclined to think it’s obvious that the world would be an immeasurably better place if religion would just go away. The (non-Jewish) Israelis and (non-Muslim) Palestinians would live in peace and happy harmony. Non-Muslim militants wouldn’t bother to expel non-Christians from Iraq. And of course, the U.S. Supreme Court wouldn’t feel obliged to protect the freedom of non-religious business owners to practice their non-faith.

Peace in the Middle East and free birth control for everyone — who could possibly object?

Only a religious fanatic, that’s who.

That’s the kind of sharp thinking Egan inspired as soon as I read his column.

There is much more, and Rosenthal and the Times deserve to be raked over the coals for shoddy thinking and writing–which they decided to inflict on the public, no less. Read it all. I will only add that Timothy Egan is very much in the running to win the award as Worst Columnist the New York Times Has to Offer.

Your Good Deed for the Day

I hereby direct you to support LawfareAs I have written before, it is one of the best and most informative sites out there, and certainly the best at discussing the intersection between law and national security policy. Indeed, Lawfare is so good, that it is routinely the subject of Denial of Service Attacks and attacks of more hawkish varieties1 launched at the site and its authors; my philosophy is that if you are scaring the benighted, you are definitely doing something right, and Lawfare certainly qualifies on that score.

So, give to Lawfare! It will be exciting to see how the site evolves, and I am glad that there are so many dedicated and talented people working on the site who aim to leave us better informed than they found us on the subject of law and national security issues.

1. As mentioned in the link footnoted, “I have cited and written favorably about Lawfare in the past. I have also had one of my essays called “thoughtful” by Jack Goldsmith, and I have guest-posted for Lawfare as well.” You can read the rest of my disclaimer at the link, but those are the pertinent parts, I believe.

Shorter Elijah Cummings

How dare Republicans harass the head of the IRS, who said that Lois Lerner’s e-mails may not be recoverable, even though, as it turns out, Lois Lerner’s e-mails may indeed be recoverable, and for all we know, the head of the IRS may be wrong about other things as well!”

Quote of the Day

ABD AL-RAHMAN III was an emir and caliph of Córdoba in 10th-century Spain. He was an absolute ruler who lived in complete luxury. Here’s how he assessed his life:

“I have now reigned above 50 years in victory or peace; beloved by my subjects, dreaded by my enemies, and respected by my allies. Riches and honors, power and pleasure, have waited on my call, nor does any earthly blessing appear to have been wanting to my felicity.”

Fame, riches and pleasure beyond imagination. Sound great? He went on to write:

“I have diligently numbered the days of pure and genuine happiness which have fallen to my lot: They amount to 14.”

Arthur Brooks. Do yourself a favor and read the whole thing.

D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals: Federal Health Care Subsidies are Illegal

The text of the Affordable Care Act informs us–as Peter Suderman points out–that the ability to dole out subsidies are limited to “Exchange established by the State.” It should therefore surprise precisely no one to find out that federal subsidies for Obamacare–subsidies which are not organized through “Exchange established by the State”–are illegal according to the plain text of the law, and should never have been given out in the first place. More from Suderman:

. . . Case Western University Law Professor Jonathan Adler, who was instrumental in laying the legal groundwork for the case, made the point that this is not the court changing the law. It is the court interpreting the law and its clear language. Which means that any of the ruling’s effects, including the loss of subsidies, were built into the law when it was passed.

“If people lose those subsidies, it’s because the courts rule that those subsidies are and always have been unlawful,” he said. The administration “never had the authority” to dish them out. “Halbig did not cause those effects. Those are the effects of the Affordable Care Act.”

“If that causes dislocation, if that causes disruption, I think the responsibility lies with the IRS and the administration,” Adler also said.

Quite right, of course, although one can easily imagine proponents of the ACA objecting to this common sense observation because it inconveniences them. More from Professor Adler himself, who anticipates the very reaction that I anticipate:

Although this decision is faithful to the text of the PPACA – that is, faithful to the text Congress actually enacted, as opposed to the health care reform some wanted or now wish they had gotten — it will provoke howls of outrage from ACA supporters. (Let the disdain campaign begin.)

To be sure, as Professor Adler himself notes, this is not the end of the matter. The Obama administration will likely seek en banc review of the D.C. Circuit decision, and there are other jurisdictions that have decided the matter differently. I suspect that the case is going to go before the Supreme Court before long, and if it does, one certainly hopes that the Court will decide that words have meaning and that we should respect the actual meaning of words, rather than wishing that words would mean something else, and trying to give those wishes the force of law.

Oh, and of course, the White House’s reaction to the ruling is absolutely precious:

“You don’t need a fancy legal degree to understand that Congress intended for every eligible American to have access to tax credits that would lower their health care costs, regardless of whether it was state officials or federal officials who were running the marketplace,” said Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary. “I think that is a pretty clear intent of the congressional law.”

One thing we can be relatively sure of is the fact that Josh Earnest is in absolutely no danger whatsoever of being able to get “a fancy legal degree.”

The Public Catches On (Hillary Clinton Edition)

Hillary Clinton hasn’t any major substantive accomplishments to her name, and the people who will cast a judgment on any presidential candidacy of hers have taken note:

A majority of voters are unimpressed with Hillary Clinton’s performance as secretary of State, according to a new POLITICO poll.

Just 14 percent described her time at State — she served four years ending in February 2013 — as “excellent,” while another 28 percent defined it as “good.” Another 21 percent called it “fair” and 32 percent rated her performance “poor.” Six percent weren’t sure or declined to answer. The survey of likely voters in states and districts with the most competitive House and Senate races was conducted this month as Clinton traveled around the country to promote her new memoir, “Hard Choices,” and discuss her time at the nation’s top diplomat.

Clinton’s ratings did not vary meaningfully across income levels or age, but there was a clear partisan divide over the former secretary of State and likely 2016 presidential candidate. Some 79 percent of Democrats viewed her performance as either good or excellent, while just 12 percent of Republicans saw her that way. Only 15 percent of Democrats thought she did the job fairly or poorly, in contrast to 86 percent of Republicans.

Yet, in a potential warning sign for Clinton, independents gave her poor marks by a nearly 2-to-1 margin: 60 percent of viewed her performance as “fair” or “poor,” compared with just 33 percent who answered “excellent” or “good.”

So, I guess you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.

Delusion in Russia

How exactly does one engage in rational conversation with a country which is afflicted with . . . well . . . this?

Did you know Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was full of corpses when it took off from Amsterdam? Did you know that, for some darkly inexplicable reason, on July 17, MH17 moved off the standard flight path that it had taken every time before, and moved north, toward rebel-held areas outside Donetsk? Or that the dispatchers summoned the plane lower just before the crash? Or that the plane had been recently reinsured? Or that the Ukrainian army has air defense systems in the area? Or that it was the result of the Ukrainian military mistaking MH17 for Putin’s presidential plane, which looks strangely similar?

Did you know that the crash of MH17 was all part of an American conspiracy to provoke a big war with Russia?

Well, it’s all trueat least if you live in Russia, because this is the Malaysia Airlines crash story that you’d be seeing.

“But surely, the leadership class in general–and Vladimir Putin in particular–is better informed, Pejman,” I hear you cry. Alas, that may not be true.

Quote of the Day (Part Deux)

A week ago, a woman was charged with leaving her child in the car while she went into a store. Her 11-year-old child. This week, a woman was arrested for allowing her 9-year-old daughter to go to the park alone. Which raises just one question: America, what the heck is wrong with you?

I’m not interested in defending mothers who are under stress or are low-wage workers without a lot of great child-care options. I mean, fine, but these defenses should be unnecessary because what the heck are we doing arresting parents for things that were perfectly normal 30 years ago?

At the age of 9, I walked to school with a group of other 9-year-olds. Or by myself. Across the very busy streets of the Upper West Side, at a time when New York City really was very dangerous. Past housing projects. Around construction sites. My sister rode the subway to school at that age. My best friend got on the crosstown bus by herself in the first grade. Attrition rate among my classmates and myself: 0.

Leaving an infant in a car is extremely dangerous, and parents should take great care not to do so, including buying something like this. Leaving an 11-year-old alone in the car is no more dangerous than letting her go to the ladies’ room by herself. Infants die in cars because they can’t regulate their own body temperature very well, open the doors or windows, or get out of the car. If your 11-year-old doesn’t know how to open your car doors or has to be strapped in, then by all means, take them into the store with you. But if you are the parent of a normal, healthy child, then there’s no reason that he or she cannot be left by themselves for a few minutes.

Nor is there any reason that a normally intelligent 9-year-old cannot be allowed to play in a busy, safe park by herself. Could something bad happen? Yes, though the risks of accident in a crowded park are pretty limited. But something bad can happen anywhere. The rate of stranger abductions is very low, and it has been very low for a long time. Yet when I ask parents why they can’t let their kid out of their sight, stranger abductions generally top the list.

Megan McArdle.

The Intellectual and Moral Derangement of Opponents of Israel

The periodic hate campaigns that get launched against the state of Israel are uniformly obscene and disgusting, but the current one appears to be working to set new records. Just by way of reminder, we have one of Israel’s mortal enemies (Hamas), an entity that has never accepted Israel’s right to exist–let alone a right to exist in safety and security–launching missiles against Israel and actively trying to kill as many Israeli civilians as possible. As though that were not execrable enough, Hamas is also actively trying to use Palestinian civilians as human shields. And yet, despite these facts, and despite the simple truth that the moral calculus is heavily in Israel’s favor, there are enough benighted people on the planet who claim that somehow, in some way, Israel is at fault for the current conflict between itself and the Palestinians. These people, confident in the belief that derangement is a contagion, are trying to spread that contagion to as many others as possible:

Tens of thousands protested in London Saturday afternoon against Israel’s military operations in Gaza, denouncing Israel as a terrorist state and castigating British Prime Minister David Cameron for backing Israel’s right to self-defense against Hamas rocket fire

Led by speakers on a podium, protesters holding placards and banners chanted pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel slogans.

At one point, a woman on the podium shouted “from the river to the sea” — a call for the elimination of Israel — and protesters responded by yelling “Palestine will be free.”

More:

Thousands of pro-Palestinian protesters marched in French cities on Saturday to condemn violence in Gaza, defying a ban imposed after demonstrators marched on two synagogues in Paris last weekend and clashed with riot police.

French President Francois Hollande said he understood emotional responses to the killing of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip in a flare-up of hostilities with Israel but would not allow violence to spill over into France.

“That’s why I asked the interior minister, after an investigation, to ensure that such protests would not take place,” he told journalists during a visit to Chad.

[. . .]

The far-left New Anticapitalist Party, an organizer of last Sunday’s rally and the banned one in Paris, urged protesters in Paris to defy the ban, prompting police to issue a warning.

[. . .]

In the first three months of 2014 more Jews left France for Israel than at any other time since the Jewish state was created in 1948, with many citing rising anti-Semitism as a factor.

Of course, it ought to go without saying that no one should dare call the organizers of these protests “anti-Semitic.” Because that would hurt their feelings, or something.

Now, for some sanity. Brendan O’Neill has a proper reply to the anti-Israel fanatics:

Why are Western liberals always more offended by Israeli militarism than by any other kind of militarism? It’s extraordinary. France can invade Mali and there won’t be loud, rowdy protests by peaceniks in Paris. David Cameron, backed by a whopping 557 members of parliament, can order airstrikes on Libya and British leftists won’t give over their Twitterfeeds to publishing gruesome pics of the Libyan civilians killed as a consequence. President Obama can resume his drone attacks in Pakistan, killing 13 people in one strike last month, and Washington won’t be besieged by angry anti-war folk demanding ‘Hands off Pakistan’. But the minute Israel fires a rocket into Gaza, the second Israeli politicians say they’re at war again with Hamas, radicals in all these Western nations will take to the streets, wave hyperbolic placards, fulminate on Twitter, publish pictures of dead Palestinian children, publish the names and ages of everyone ‘MURDERED BY ISRAEL’, and generally scream about Israeli ‘bloodletting’. (When the West bombs another country, it’s ‘war’; when Israel does it, it’s ‘bloodletting’.)

Anyone possessed of a critical faculty must at some point have wondered why there’s such a double standard in relation to Israeli militarism, why missiles fired by the Jewish State are apparently more worthy of condemnation than missiles fired by Washington, London, Paris, the Turks, Assad, or just about anyone else on Earth. Parisians who have generally given a Gallic shrug as French troops have basically retaken Francophone Africa, stamping their boots everywhere from the Central African Republic to Mali to Cote d’Ivoire over the past two years, turned out in their thousands at the weekend to condemn Israeli imperialism and barbarism. Americans who didn’t create much fuss last month when the Obama administration announced the resumption of its drone attacks in Pakistan gathered at the Israeli Embassy in Washington to yell about Israeli murder. (Incredibly, they did this just a day after a US drone attack, the 375th such attack in 10 years, killed at least six people in Pakistan. But hey, Obama-led militarism isn’t as bad as Israeli militarism, and dead Pakistanis, unlike dead Palestinians, don’t deserve to have their photos, names and ages published by the concerned liberals of Twitter.) Meanwhile, hundreds of very angry Brits gathered at the Israeli Embassy in London, bringing traffic to a standstill, clambering on to buses, yelling about murder and savagery, in furious, colourful scenes that were notable by their absence three years ago when Britain sent planes to pummel Libya.

As does Charles Schumer (hey, when Charles Schumer is right, he is right):

Amid the recent troubles between Israel and the Palestinians, many Americans and media commentators are drawing disturbing lines of parallelism between the two societies, asserting a false moral equivalency to the actions of each.

In essence, the claim goes like this: “Both sides are fighting each other with similar degrees of violence; both treat each other equally badly; each side is equally to blame for the violence, and they just can’t come together.”

That notion that there is a moral equivalency between the defensive and targeted actions that the rule-of-law-based Israel is compelled to take, and the proactive and indiscriminate actions that hate-based organizations like Hamas takes, is completely unfair, unfounded and infuriating to supporters of Israel — with good reason.

In fact, there is no moral equivalence between the actions and reactions of Israel and Hamas and the Palestinian community to the violence that has occurred.

Two glaring examples stand out. The first revolves around the difference between Israel’s and the Palestinian community’s reactions to the horrible kidnappings and coldblooded murders of four boys, three Israeli and one Palestinian.

No doubt the loss of these children is one beyond words. Both incidents were abhorrent.

But the reaction on both sides was not the same. How did Hamas and too many diverse parts of the mainstream Palestinian community respond to the kidnap and murder of three young Israelis? They cheered.

The official Hamas spokesman called the kidnappers “heroes.” The mother of one of the suspected kidnappers, Abu Aysha, said, “If he [my son] truly did it — I’ll be proud of him till my final day.”

And is it no wonder, given the vitriolic hatred of Israel that has been preached in textbooks and schools to two generations of Palestinian children. Such propaganda has been propagated by not only Hamas, but by the Palestinian Authority, and has created a perverse mythology throughout Palestinian society that calls suicide bombers “martyrs” and extols kidnappers and murderers as heroes.

Those who killed the Israeli boys have not been found, and the cooperation of Palestinian authorities in the hunt for them has been lukewarm at best.

Compare that to the reaction of the Israeli people to the murder of the Palestinian teenager. Israelis were aghast. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu immediately called the murderers “terrorists” who committed deeds equal to the terrorism on the other side and said that Israel must find “who is behind this despicable murder.” The Israeli government has made every effort to bring those responsible to justice, and there are now six arrests.

And Eric Yoffie:

On “NBC Nightly News” on July 12, David Gregory spoke of growing pressure from the United Nations for a ceasefire in Gaza. He noted that the United States and many other nations believed that Israel had a right to self-defense. Nonetheless, Gregory reported, these countries were likely to be sympathetic to calls for a ceasefire because of the “disproportionate” number of casualties between the two sides. Among the residents of Gaza, the death toll then exceeded 100, while Israel had suffered dozens of injuries but no casualties.

Mr. Gregory was simply reporting the news, but I found his comments disturbing, nonetheless. What does it mean to say that the casualties are “disproportionate”? And is that really the moral issue that we need to be concerned about?

The implication of the “disproportionality” claim is that, given their losses, the people of Gaza are the real victims. But morally and politically, this is an intolerable and distorted interpretation of the realities in the region.

The reason that Hamas has not killed more Israelis is not because they haven’t tried. In the seven years during which it has controlled Gaza, Hamas and its proxies have fired more than 5000 rockets into Israel; almost 800 have been launched just this past week. Each one has been aimed at civilians and intended to murder and maim. The reason that more Israelis have not died is that the weapons are mostly crude and inaccurate and that, over time, Israel has prepared herself with shelters, warning sirens and an anti-missile system. In addition, Israelis have been just plain lucky.

But that luck could change at any moment. If a single rocket were to hit a school or a mall, the number of dead could balance out in a flash. Then, to be sure, you would have “proportionality,” but there is no moral calculus by which additional dead civilians is a preferable outcome.

For Israel, the fundamental issue is the responsibility of its government to protect its citizens. As missiles have fallen on her cities over the years, the government has not succeeded in providing that protection. The reasons are many, including sensitivity to American wishes and a concern for world opinion; but the desire not to hurt the innocent is the most important. Now, however, as children in the south continue to live in terror and civilians throughout Israel flee to shelters several times daily, Israel’s leaders have concluded that they must act.

There is something bizarre, in fact, about the idea of “proportionality” being used as a moral criticism against Israel. A proportional response by Israel to the attacks of the last seven years would mean that every time a rocket is fired by Hamas at an Israeli civilian center, Israel would respond by firing a rocket at a civilian center in Gaza. Israel, of course, rejected that, then and now. Still, when Hamas violated the ceasefire yet again and got its hands on longer-range rockets, something had to be done.

Joshua Muravchik informs us why the casualties are “disproportionate”:

. . . Already, UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay, EU foreign policy czarina Catherine Ashton, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty [International], the British press and the usual array of “progressive” voices are assailing Israel for this fight in which Hamas is the aggressor and Israel is acting, with unmistakable reluctance, only in self-defense. True, most casualties are on the Palestinian side. Why? Israel has spent billions on civil defense and [the] Iron Dome to protect its citizens. Hamas urges its subjects to disregard Israeli warnings and to stay put in targeted buildings in order to become “martyrs.” They’re fulfilling their mantra: “You love life; we love death.”

And finally, David Harsanyi shows why Jeff Bezos was unwilling to part with any money in order to keep Ezra Klein & the Gang around at the Washington Post:

Not long ago, Vox’s Max Fisher argued that Israel was liable for the entire conflict in the Middle East. He then accused Israel of welcoming Hamas’ execution of three Jewish teenagers as a pretext to engage in the vengeful massacring of Arab civilians. And then he lamented the fact that Hamas’ rocket barrage was met with Israel’s technological superiority and, consequently, a lopsided outcome.

Nowadays, as Hamas ignores cease-fires and is caught using children as human shields by the United Nations, many apologists have given up. Not Fisher, who attempts to whip up some moral equivalency in a new piece titled “Yes, Gaza militants hide rockets in schools, but Israel doesn’t have to bomb them”:

This is the one thing that both Hamas and Israel seem to share: a willingness to adopt military tactics that will put Palestinian civilians at direct risk and that contribute, however unintentionally, to the deaths of Palestinian civilians. Partisans in the Israel-Palestine conflict want to make that an argument over which “side” has greater moral culpability in the continued killings of Palestinian civilians. And there is validity to asking whether Hamas should so ensconce itself among civilians in a way that will invite attacks, just as there is validity to asking why Israel seems to show so little restraint in dropping bombs over Gaza neighborhoods. But even that argument over moral superiority ultimately treats those dying Palestinian families as pawns in the conflict, tokens to be counted for or against, their humanity and suffering so easily disregarded.

A “partisan” writing about a conflict as if he we an honest broker is distracting, but read it again. You might note that one of the institutions he’s talking about is the governing authority of the Palestinian people in Gaza, which, applying even the most basic standards of decency, should task itself with safeguarding the lives of civilians. Instead, it makes martyrs out of children and relies on the compassion of Israelis to protect its weapons. This is a tragedy, of course, but Israel does have to bomb caches of rockets hidden by “militants” in Mosques, schools, and hospitals. Since Hamas’ terrorist complex is deeply embedded in Gaza’s civilian infrastructure there is really no other way. And that only tells us that one of the two organizations mentioned by Fisher has purposely decided to use Palestinian as pawns and put civilians in harm’s way.

It is also preposterous to claim that Israel is showing “little restraint in dropping bombs over Gaza neighborhoods.” Actually, Israel is far more concerned with the wellbeing of Palestinians civilians than Hamas. This week, 13 Hamas fighters used a tunnel into Israel and attempted to murder 150 civilians in Kibbutz Sufa, with Kalashnikovs and anti-tank weapons. On the same day, Israel issued early warnings before attacking Hamas targets – as it often has throughout this conflict in an effort to avoid needless civilian deaths Hamas is hoping for. It was Israel that agreed to a five-hour cease-fire so that UN aid could flow into Gaza last week. It is Israel that sends hundreds of thousands of tons of food to Gaza every year, millions of articles of clothing and medical aid. That’s more than restraint.

Quite right, of course, but as always, the argument over Israel’s actions ends up pitting responsible and sane people against those whose complaints against Israel always amount to “the dastardly Jews aren’t allowing their enemies to kill Jews quickly enough.”

Quote of the Day

Income inequality has surged as a political and economic issue, but the numbers don’t show that inequality is rising from a global perspective. Yes, the problem has become more acute within most individual nations, yet income inequality for the world as a whole has been falling for most of the last 20 years. It’s a fact that hasn’t been noted often enough.

The finding comes from a recent investigation by Christoph Lakner, a consultant at the World Bank, and Branko Milanovic, senior scholar at the Luxembourg Income Study Center. And while such a framing may sound startling at first, it should be intuitive upon reflection. The economic surges of China, India and some other nations have been among the most egalitarian developments in history.

Of course, no one should use this observation as an excuse to stop helping the less fortunate. But it can help us see that higher income inequality is not always the most relevant problem, even for strict egalitarians. Policies on immigration and free trade, for example, sometimes increase inequality within a nation, yet can make the world a better place and often decrease inequality on the planet as a whole.

Tyler Cowen.

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