From September, 2014

From the “Most Transparent Administration Ever,” a Request that the Press Not Do Its Job

No, seriously: First lady Michelle Obama appeared with [Wisconsin Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary] Burke later Monday in Milwaukee, praising her for starting a program to help students get to college, before recalling the challenges President Barack Obama faced when he took office. The crowd cheered as Mrs. Obama talked about restoring the economy and overhauling the health care system. “She is smart, she is in this for the right reasons, she cares about people, she doesn’t care about politics,” Obamas aid of Burke, who has no kids and worked with the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County. “She has been…

An Intelligence Failure of Alarming Proportions

How bad were we at assessing the threat posed by ISIL? This bad: By late last year, classified American intelligence reports painted an increasingly ominous picture of a growing threat from Sunni extremists in Syria, according to senior intelligence and military officials. Just as worrisome, they said, were reports of deteriorating readiness and morale among troops next door in Iraq. But the reports, they said, generated little attention in a White House consumed with multiple brush fires and reluctant to be drawn back into Iraq. “Some of us were pushing the reporting, but the White House just didn’t pay attention…

Well . . .

Ebola has been diagnosed for the first time in the United States, a statement that can be something of a conversation stopper. We are told–and we have been told for a while–that it was inevitable that the virus would find its way to our country, and we are given assurances (reasonably convincing assurances, at that) that the virus will be contained. Still, this is something of a watershed moment in American history. Maybe it is unreasonable to be made a bit nervous by the news that Ebola is no longer a stranger to America, but I imagine that nerves are…

Quote of the Day

MARACAY, Venezuela—A string of deaths in a hospital here has sparked fears of a potent, mosquito-borne disease and led authorities to seek a doctor’s arrest for allegedly sowing panic, leaving residents wondering how to explain their symptoms. Angel Sarmiento, president of the College of Doctors in Aragua state, told reporters on Sept. 11 that a virus or bacteria may have been responsible for the deaths of eight patients in quick succession at the Central Hospital of Maracay. A ninth patient died three days after Dr. Sarmiento’s comments. Insisting there was no cause for general alarm, President Nicolás Maduro last week…

Our Astonishingly Incoherent Anti-ISIL Policy

So, notwithstanding the Obamaesque promises of 2008–and after–we are at war again in Iraq. And if that isn’t enough, we are also at war in Syria. Here is the stated reason for our intervention: The U.S. launched eight airstrikes Monday night against a little-known, al-Qaida-affiliated militant group in Syria. The United States Central Command said Tuesday morning that American forces hit the Khorasan Group near Aleppo to stop “imminent attack-planning against the United States and Western interests.” At a Pentagon press briefing shortly after, defense officials explained just how imminent such an attack may have been. “The intelligence reports indicated that the…

Something Interesting Is Happening in Hong Kong

Link: A wave of protest in Hong Kong that engulfed the city could continue into the week as thousands of residents defied a government call on Monday to abandon street blockades, students boycotted classes and the city’s influential bar association added its condemnation of a police crackdown on protesters. The public resistance underscored the difficulties that the Hong Kong government faces in defusing widespread anger that erupted on Sunday after the police used tear gas, pepper spray and batons to break up a sit-in by students and other residents demanding democratic elections in the semiautonomous Chinese territory. On Monday the…

More IRS Abuses to Keep You Up and Fretting at Night

Did you know that if you are involved in educating people about the Constitution, you might end up in the sights of the Internal Revenue Service? It’s true. I am sure that the “be on the lookout” criteria that Nicholas Rosenkranz references are based on keywords and key phrases that are meant to indicate certain types of political activity, but that doesn’t make the following any less chilling: What is most corrosive about this IRS tripwire is that it is triggered by a particular point of view; it is not, as First Amendment scholars say, viewpoint-neutral. It does not include…

From the “Most Transparent Administration Ever” (A Continuing Series)

I presume that we would hear a lot more outraged commentary about this if a Republican were in the White House: White House press-pool reports are supposed to be the news media’s eyes and ears on the president, an independent chronicle of his public activities. They are written by reporters for other reporters, who incorporate them into news articles about President Obama almost every day. Sometimes, however, the White House plays an unseen role in shaping the story. Journalists who cover the White House say Obama’s press aides have demanded — and received — changes in press-pool reports before the reports…

Good News and Bad News in the Fight Against Anti-Semitism

First, the good news: Over 600 academics thus far have signed a new letter opposing an academic boycott of Israel. The signatories include at least one Nobel Prize winner, law school deans, and leading scholars in several fields (that is just based on the some of the signatories I personally know; I have not looked over the whole list). The statement takes no position on the Israeli-Arab conflict, and tries to to be as neutral as possible about everything other than BDS itself. The key parts of the letter are below; it is open for signature by any college or…

How to Be Utterly Unreasonable (Corey Robin Edition)

Those who are closely tracking the Steven Salaita affair know that Corey Robin–who is a “political theorist” at Brooklyn College–has perhaps been Salaita’s most ardent defender and champion. This article profiles Robin. Note the following: In the Salaita case, Todd Gitlin faults Mr. Robin for failing to engage with the substance of Mr. Salaita’s tweets, at least as far as Mr. Gitlin has seen. Mr. Gitlin, a professor of journalism and sociology at Columbia University, points to this Salaita tweet from July: “There’s something profoundly sexual to the Zionist pleasure w/#Israel’s aggression. Sublimation through bloodletting, a common perversion.” As Mr. Gitlin views…