Saturday, February 28, 2015

25 TAKEAWAYS FROM CPAC | State Says 70-Year-Old Flower Shop Owner Discriminated Against Gay Couple | How Does Your State Rank in Church Attendance? | What Patricia Arquette Got Wrong | This Free Clinic Is Saving Health Care

Feb. 28, 2015

25 Takeaways From America's Biggest Conservative Conference

State Says 70-Year-Old Flower Shop Owner Discriminated Against Gay Couple

How Does Your State Rank in Church Attendance?

What Patricia Arquette Got Wrong About the Founders and Women

How a Free Clinic Is Saving Health Care in America

Why Texas' Attorney General Is 'Very Confident' in Immigration Fight


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The Heritage Insider: Don't expect the Internet to evolve now, the FCC is lawless, the Left is getting ready to burn more heretics, and more

Updated daily, InsiderOnline ( is a compilation of publication abstracts, how-to essays, events, news, and analysis from around the conservative movement. The current edition of The INSIDER quarterly magazine is also on the site.

February 28, 2015

Latest Studies
45 new items, including a Yankee Institute report on how renewable mandates raise electricity prices, and a Buckeye Institute report on the pitfalls of Medicaid expansion for Ohio

Notes on the Week
Don’t expect the Internet to evolve now, the FCC is lawless, the Left is getting ready to burn more heretics, and more

To Do
Find out how the Supreme Court’s next decision will affect health care

Latest Studies

Budget & Taxation
Medicaid Expansion Relies on Uncertain Funding – Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions
Comparing Government and Private Sector Compensation in Ontario – Fraser Institute
Export-Import Bank Impervious to Reform – The Heritage Foundation
State-Employee Health Benefits: Avoiding the ObamaCare “Cadillac Tax” – Illinois Policy Institute
State-Employee Health Insurance: Opportunities for Reform – Illinois Policy Institute
Incorrectly Defining Business Income: The Proposal to Eliminate the Deductibility of Foreign Reinsurance Premiums – Tax Foundation
Options for Complying With the McCleary Decision Without Raising Taxes – Washington Policy Center

Crime, Justice & the Law
Attorney-Client Privilege in the Compliance Context: Could Courts Trend Toward More Protection? – Washington Legal Foundation

Economic and Political Thought
What Must We Think About When We Think About Politics? – Manhattan Institute

Economic Growth
Who Is Working Less? – The Heritage Foundation
Greece On The Brink – Hoover Institution
Measuring Job-Finding Rates and Matching Efficiency with Heterogeneous Jobseekers – Hoover Institution

Personalizing Learning Through Education Savings Accounts – Independent Women’s Forum

Elections, Transparency, & Accountability
Presidential Particularism: Distributing Funds Between Alternative Objectives and Strategies – Mercatus Center
SB 5329 to Require that Public Employee Collective Bargaining Sessions Be Open Meetings – Washington Policy Center

Foreign Policy/International Affairs
Six Issues the U.S. Should Not Concede to Cuba During Normalization Talks – The Heritage Foundation
Moscow and Pyongyang: From Disdain to Partnership? – Hudson Institute
Brexit: Directions for Britain Outside the EU – Institute of Economic Affairs

Health Care
Eight Groups Harmed by the ACA’s Flawed Policies – The Heritage Foundation
Impact of King v. Burwell: The ACA’s Key Design Flaws – The Heritage Foundation
King v. Burwell: Assessing the Claimed Effects of a Decision for the Plaintiffs – The Heritage Foundation
Improve Health Care for Medicaid Patients While Controlling Costs for Taxpayers – Illinois Policy Institute
Certificate-Of-Need Laws: Implications for Virginia – Mercatus Center

Information Technology
Regulating the Most Powerful Network Ever – Free State Foundation
Regulation Won’t Preserve a Dynamic and “Open” Internet – Free State Foundation
The Internet of Things and Wearable Technology: Addressing Privacy and Security Concerns without Derailing Innovation – Mercatus Center

International Trade/Finance
Time to Renew and Enhance the African Growth and Opportunity Act – The Heritage Foundation

Has the Minimum Wage Kept Up With Inflation? – Washington Policy Center
HB 1646 Equal Pay Act Would Promote Unfair Pay for Unequal Work – Washington Policy Center

Monetary Policy/Financial Regulation
How Are Small Banks Faring under Dodd-Frank? – Cato Institute
Can the Dodd-Frank Act Be Reformed To Strengthen the Financial System and the Overall Economy? We Think So – Federalist Society

National Security
An American Strategy for Victory in the War Against Islamist Terror – American Enterprise Institute
2015 Index of U.S. Military Strength – The Heritage Foundation
The U.S. Needs to Secure Maritime Ports by Securing Network Ports – The Heritage Foundation
A Grand Strategy for Failed States – Hoover Institution

Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & Science
Fumbling the Alberta Advantage: How Alberta Squandered a Decade of High Energy Prices – Fraser Institute
Restoring Power: How Lawmakers Can Lower Your Electric Bill – Yankee Institute for Public Policy

Philanthropy’s Dangerous Rival – Philanthropy Roundtable

Regulation & Deregulation
Bootstraps Tangled in Red Tape – Goldwater Institute
Bringing the Effects of Occupational Licensing into Focus: Optician Licensing in the United States – Mercatus Center
Indiana Means Business! – Public Interest Institute
Public Should Scrutinize Federal Dietary Guidelines’ Support for New Regulations – Washington Legal Foundation
Revitalizing the Information Quality Act as a Procedural Cure for Unsound Regulatory Science: A Greenhouse Gas Rulemaking Case Study – Washington Legal Foundation

The Constitution/Civil Liberties
Municipal Broadband Networks Present Serious First Amendment Problems – Free State Foundation

What Congress and States Can Do to Reform Transportation Policy – The Heritage Foundation



Notes on the Week

The FCC’s net neutrality rules will shut down innovation on the Internet. By a 3-2 vote, the Federal Communications Commission approved “Net Neutrality” rules on Thursday. According to FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, the new rules “ban blocking, ban throttling, and ban paid-prioritization fast lanes” on the Internet. According to Brent Skorup, however, the rules will prevent ISPs from experimenting with different ways of managing traffic to improve the quality of their services: 

Prioritization has been built into Internet protocols for years. MIT computer scientist and early Internet developer David Clark colorfully dismissed this first myth as “happy little bunny rabbit dreams,” and pointed out that “[t]he network is not neutral and never has been.” Experts such as tech entrepreneur and investor Mark Cuban and President Obama’s former chief technology officer Aneesh Chopra have observed that the need for prioritization of some traffic increases as Internet services grow more diverse. People speaking face-to-face online with doctors through new telemedicine video applications, for instance, should not be disrupted by once-a-day data backups. ISPs and tech companies should be free to experiment with new broadband services without time-consuming regulatory approval from the FCC. […]

Intelligent management of Internet traffic and prioritization provide useful services to consumers. Net neutrality proponents call zero-rating?—?which is when carriers allow Internet services that don’t subtract from a monthly data allotment?—?and similar practices “dangerous,” “malignant,” and rights violations. This hyperbole arises from dogma, not facts. The real-world use of prioritization and zero-rating is encouraging and pro-consumer. Studies show that zero-rated applications are used by millions of people around the globe, including in the United States, and they are popular. In one instance, poor South African high school students petitioned their carriers for free?—?zero-rated?—?Wikipedia access because accessing Wikipedia frequently for homework was expensive. Upon hearing the students’ plight, Wikipedia and South African carriers happily obliged. Net neutrality rules like Title II would prohibit popular services like zero-rating and intelligent network management that makes more services available. […]

[T]he FCC’s rules will make broadband more expensive, not cheaper. The rules regulate Internet companies much like telephone companies and therefore federal and state telephone fees will eventually apply to Internet bills. According to preliminary estimates, millions of Americans will drop or never subscribe to an Internet connection because of these price hikes. Second, the FCC’s rules will not make Netflix and webpages faster. The FCC rules do not require ISPs to increase the capacity or speed of customers’ connections. Capacity upgrades require competition and ISP investment, which may be harmed by the FCC’s onerous new rules. [Mercatus Center, February 23]

And Julian Sanchez explains how the rules foreclose the discovery of better business models:

[U]sers who want any of their traffic delivered at the highest speed will have to continue paying for all their traffic to be delivered at that speed, whether they need it or not. The extreme version of this is the controversy over “zero-rating“ in the developing world, where the Orthodox Neutralite position is that it’s better for those who can’t afford mobile Internet access to go without rather than let companies like Facebook and Wikipedia provide poor people with subsidized free access to their sites.

The deep irony here is that “permissionless innovation” has been one of the clarion calls of proponents of neutrality regulation. The idea is that companies at the “edge” of the network introducing new services should be able to launch them without having to negotiate with every ISP in order to get their traffic carried at an acceptable speed. Users like that principle too; it’s why services like CompuServe and AOL ultimately had to abandon a “walled garden” model that gave customers access only to a select set of curated services.

But there’s another kind of permissionless innovation that the FCC’s decision is designed to preclude: innovation in business models and routing policies. […] Are there different ways of routing traffic, or of dividing up the cost of moving packets from content providers, that might lower costs or improve quality of service? Again, I’m not certain—but I am certain we’re unlikely to find out if providers don’t get to run the experiment. It seems to me that the only reason not to want to find out is the fear that some consumers will like the results of at least some of these experiments, making it politically more difficult to entrench the sacred principle of neutrality in law. [Cato Institute, February 6]


Is the Federal Communications Commission lawless? With its vote on net neutrality, the agency is going to exercise a kind of power that the Constitution does not recognize, says Randolph May: 

From all indications, the FCC contemplates that the new rules will be sufficiently burdensome and costly—and sufficiently ambiguous—that affected parties will be invited to seek exemptions from the new mandates through “waiver” requests or other administrative mechanisms.

But this likely flood of waiver requests should raise serious questions concerning the lawfulness of the agency’s mode of operating. As Philip Hamburger discusses in his book, Is Administrative Law Unlawful?, one of our Founders’ objectives was to control, if not eliminate, what in England was known as the “dispensing” power. Simply put, the dispensing power—which is much discussed in English constitutional history—was a form of exercise of royal prerogative under which the king could excuse himself or his favored subjects from complying with particular laws enacted by Parliament. As Hamburger explains, today’s administrative agencies, in essence, have resurrected the dispensing power by the way they so often use waivers to grant favored treatment.

Here is the way Hamburger puts it:

After administrators adopt a burdensome rule, they sometimes write letters to favored persons telling them that, notwithstanding the rule, they need not comply. In other words, the return of extralegal legislation has been accompanied by the return of the dispensing power, this time under the rubric of ‘waivers.’

And then he goes to the heart of the matter:

Like dispensations, waivers go far beyond the usual administrative usurpation of legislative or judicial power, for they do not involve lawmaking or adjudication, let alone executive force. On the contrary, they are a fourth power—one carefully not recognized by the Constitution. [The Hill, February 25]


Can the United States military fight two major regional conflicts at once? No, says The Heritage Foundation’s 2015 Index of U.S. Military Strength: 

Overall, the current U.S. military force is adequate to meeting the demands of a single major regional conflict while attending to the various presence and engagement activities that keep it so busy, but it does not meet the standard of two MRC. This certainly does not come as a surprise, since this is what the military is doing now and has done for the past two decades, but the decline in funding and shrinking of the force are serious problems. Essential maintenance is being deferred; fewer units (mostly the Navy’s platforms and the Special Operations Forces community) are being cycled through operational deployments more often and for longer periods; and old equipment is being extended while programmed replacements are problematic. The cumulative effect of such factors has resulted in a U.S. military that is marginally able to meet the demands of defending America’s vital national interests.

This edition of the Index of U.S. Military Strength is the first in what will be an annual publication by The Heritage Foundation. The Index actually assesses three different things: the global operating environment, threats to vital U.S. interests, and U.S. military power.

Among the problems cited by the Index were readiness shortfalls in the Army and deferred maintenance that threatens the future capabilities of the Navy. The Index notes that only 12 of the Army’s brigade combat teams out of 38 were prepared for deployment at the end 2014. The Index also observes that only one-third of the Navy is fully mission-capable; historically the figure has been 50 percent. The Navy’s surge capacity (the ability to send non-deployed ships to a crisis region), meanwhile, is only one-third of its normal level. [“2015 Index of U.S. Military Power,” The Heritage Foundation, February 2015]


The Left is getting ready to burn more heretics. Last Saturday, the New York Times published an article claiming climatologist, and noted global warming skeptic, Wei-Hock (Willie) Soon “accepted more than $1.2 million in money from the fossil-fuel industry over the last decade while failing to disclose that conflict of interest in most of his scientific papers.” So there is now a debate going on over whether he should have disclosed more than he did. Much of the outrage on the Left, as John Hinderaker notes, is fed by a false assumption about conflicts of interest: 

[T]he New York Times and other pro-government sources assume that government funding of research is lily-white, while corporate funding is inherently suspect. This is ridiculous. Put aside, for a moment, the fact that the American environmental movement is funded by Russia’s state-controlled oil company.

That isn’t the real scandal. The real scandal is that the overwhelming majority of money spent on climate research comes from governments. Governments, most notably ours, fund climate hysteria to the tune of billions of dollars per year. Why? Because the whole point of global warming alarmism is to persuade voters to cede more control over Western economies to government. (No one actually cares about CO2 emissions from India or China, which together vastly exceed ours.)

Governments fund climate research–but only climate research that feeds alarmism–because they are the main parties in interest in the climate debate. Governments stand to gain trillions of dollars in revenue and unprecedented power if voters in the U.S. and other Western countries can be stampeded into ceding more power to them, based on transparently bad science. [Powerline, February 24]

Now Rep. Raul Grijalva, ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Natural Resources, wants to investigate whether undisclosed financial relationships have influenced any testimony about global warming given to his committee on the issue. He has sent letters to seven universities making detailed requests about seven different climatologists. One of the academics being investigated is Roger Pielke, Jr., of the University of Colorado at Boulder. The investigation, writes Pielke on his blog, is nothing more than an attempt to intimidate scientists whose research doesn’t fully support a catastrophic view of the issue:

Adam Sarvana, communications director for Natural Resources Committee’s Democratic delegation, reinforced the politically-motivated nature of the investigation in an interview:

“The way we chose the list of recipients is who has published widely, who has testified in Congress before, who seems to have the most impact on policy in the scientific community”

Let’s see – widely published, engaged with Congress, policy impact – these are supposed to be virtues of the modern academic researcher, right? [The Climate Fix, February 25]

And Pielke isn’t even that much of a skeptic about global warming. He thinks it’s happening, that’s man’s activities are contributing to it, and that President Obama’s carbon regulations are a good idea. Pielke’s “sin” is that he doesn’t think the increasing costs of natural disasters can be attributed to global warming; his view isn’t catastrophic enough for Rep. Grijalva’s taste.

In a letter, the American Meteorological Society tells the congressman his actions are misguided:

Publicly singling out specific researchers based on perspectives they have expressed and implying a failure to appropriately disclose funding sources—and thereby questioning their scientific integrity—sends a chilling message to all academic researchers. Further, requesting copies of the researcher’s communications related to external funding opportunities or the preparation of testimony impinges on the free pursuit of ideas that is central to the concept of academic freedom.

The AMS maintains that peer-review is the appropriate mechanism to assess the validity and quality of scientific research, regardless of the funding sources supporting that research as long as those funding sources and any potential conflicts of interest are fully disclosed. The scientific process that includes testing and validation of concepts and ideas—discarding those that cannot successfully withstand such testing—is chronicled in the peer-reviewed scientific literature. [American Meteorological Society, February 27]


Corruption isn’t merely a byproduct of our politics; it’s hardwired into it. The reason public policy is so frequently bent to serve narrow interests, says Jay Cost, is that our system of checks and balances was designed for a government that was expected to do much less than it does today. That is the thesis of Cost’s new book: A Republic No More: Big Government and the Rise of American Political Corruption. 

thf 2015-02-28 insider jaycost.jpg


How not to beat the terrorists: Victor Davis Hanson: 

Western diffidence and appeasement are interpreted as proof not just that the West is weak, but that its weakness arises from guilt and a tacit admission that Islamism is spot-on in its charges of Western culpability. Barack Obama reifies that message when he offers his confessional Al Arabiya interview, his platitudinous Cairo speech, his apology tour, and his euphemistic campaign to excise words such as “terrorism,” “Islamism,” and “radical Islam,” or when he admonishes Christians and Westerners generally about getting on their moral high horses despite having a cultural tradition of slavery, apartheid, inquisition, and crusading. If touchy and solicitous Western leaders are loath to challenge radical Islam’s charges against the West and instead seek any mechanism possible to avoid being offensive, such tentativeness must be proof of their guilt.

ISIS and its supporters, both radical Islamists and fence-sitting observers, also don’t see evidence of lasting Western military strength. The more the West blows stuff up with its complex technology, the more it loses. The Taliban, they feel, will return once the tired West pulls out of Afghanistan — just as, even when the West wins militarily in Iraq, it loses through abandoning garrisons that are felt to be too burdensome. Libya seemed a cowardly bomb-and-run quickie. Iran’s defiance of serial deadlines and Syria’s indifference to Obama’s red lines confirm that the West is sanctimonious and shrill but otherwise tentative. Radical Muslims look elsewhere around the world, from Putin’s aggression to China’s muscle flexing, and are convinced that America either cannot or will not act successfully, further proof that it confesses its own lethargy. […]

Every time [Obama] fails to note that Coptic Egyptians are beheaded precisely because they are Christians, or that Jews are killed by reason of being Jews, ISIS takes note. Each time he remonstrates with Christians for their moral high horses, or cites poverty as the root cause of “violent extremism,” or retreats into the distant past in desperate efforts to remind Westerners of their own comparable sins, ISIS takes note. Each time Obama hesitates, issues and then forgets about threats, or slashes defense, ISIS takes note. And if Obama continues, soon a 400-million-person Middle East will take note as well. Millions may not like ISIS, just as millions once were somewhat bothered by Hitler. They may prefer that its beheadings remain untelevised, or may frown on burning someone alive when the firing squad would do. But they most certainly will like the power, territory, and fear that ISIS commands — and the utter helplessness that follows in the once haughty West. [National Review, February 24]


To Do: Find Out How the Supreme Court’s Next Decision Will Affect Health Care

Learn what’s at stake in King v. Burwell—the lawsuit that challenges the IRS’s authority to offer tax credits in non-exchange states. The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on March 4. At noon on March 5, the Cato Institute will host a panel discussion on what a ruling either way will mean for patients and health policy.

Examine what’s next for the Internet, now that the Federal Communications Commissions has classified it as a public utility. The American Enterprise Institute will host a discussion with Rep. Greg Walden, (R-Ore.), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology. The discussion will begin at 2 p.m. on March 2.

Help the Pacific Research Institute celebrate the woman who turned Britain around. The 2015 Baroness Thatcher Dinner will feature Fox News’s Bret Baier and Rep. Dana Rohrabach (R-Calif.), who will be awarded the Baroness Thatcher Liberty Award. The event will begin at 6 p.m. on March 6 at the Island Hotel in Newport Beach.

Learn what the failures of progressive policies teach us about progress. Harvey Mansfield will assess the futures of our two political parties in the light of current events. Mansfield’s talk will begin at noon on March 5 at The Heritage Foundation.


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Friday, February 27, 2015

The Challenge of Sincerity

The Goldberg File
By Jonah Goldberg

February 27, 2015

Dear Reader (Unless you see a black and blue dress, in which case you're more useless than a Southern California llama wrangler or a Clinton ethics adviser),

Over 20 years ago, when I was briefly living in Czechoslovakia, I visited Theresienstadt, a Nazi concentration camp. Tens of thousands of Jews were killed there. Even so, as Nazi concentration camps go it was pretty nice. That was by design. The Nazis used it as a Potemkin "Jewish settlement" in an effort to persuade the International Red Cross that the Nazis weren't mistreating the Jews. To that end, they shipped out the malnourished and spruced the place up in advance of the Red Cross's arrival.

In the grand scheme of things, this was just a small part of the Nazis' effort to hide the fact that they were liquidating the Jews of Europe. They couldn't hide their anti-Semitic brutality of course, but even the SS understood that openly murdering millions of innocents amounted to bad press they didn't need.

In this desire, the Nazis weren't alone. Stalin tried to keep a lid on the fact that he was murdering millions through starvation in Ukraine, never mind slaughtering unknown numbers of fellow Russians. The effort to keep all of it hush-hush was aided by cadres of useful idiots in the West. And not just useful idiots. Some of the unindicted co-conspirators knew and helped cover it up. Walter Duranty's lies about the famine in Ukraine earned him a Pulitzer for the New York Times. The Pulitzer board still refuses to revoke the prize. The Khmer Rouge slaughtered up to 3 million of their fellow Cambodians. They buried the bodies and denied the crimes, they didn't put out press releases. North Korea, right now, is the world's largest gulag. In the last decade it has murdered hundreds of thousands of its own people through starvation or execution. But they deny this, to the great comfort of those who would have us continue to do nothing about it. 

I bring all of this up to illustrate an interesting and dismaying fact about the Islamic State. Unlike every other recent genocidal movement I can think of, they don't deny the charge. They celebrate it. They tweet it. They produce slick videos, boasting of their role as the proud butchers in the newest abattoir of humanity.

It's said that hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue. And in that sense we owe the Islamic State a singular compliment: They are not hypocrites. They are doing what they believe in.

The Challenge of Sincerity

Every now and then I run into someone. They say, "Hey, watch where you're going!" and that's the end of that. Other times (at a more reasonable speed), I encounter someone, invariably liberal, often in the mainstream media or working outside of politics, who asks me, "You don't actually believe that stuff, do you?"

"That stuff" can be pretty much anything I've written or said of a conservative nature. The people who ask this question usually either like me, or think I'm smart, or both. And because they like me or think I'm smart, they assume that I must not actually believe what I believe. It invariably makes for an awkward conversation, particularly when it's a relative. (It might not surprise you to know that the extended Goldberg clan is not exactly a right-wing Hebraic Tong.)

This is just a small example of a pervasive problem: the inability to believe that other people sincerely believe fundamentally different things. This is a human problem before it is an ideological problem. It afflicts people on the left and the right, perhaps not equally but close enough. Some of the sources for this confusion are actually huge advances in human civilization. The idea that we are all equal in the eyes of God is a moral triumph of the Judeo-Christian heritage. That belief often causes people to assume that we're all fundamentally alike. And we may in fact be born that way, but we do not necessarily stay that way. It's an understandable mistake given that the secular West is based on the deep-seated dogma of equality before the law (a dogma that rests on that Judeo-Christian heritage, FWIW).

It's a glorious way of seeing the world in many respects, but it depends on other people seeing the world the same way for it to work. You can walk outside our world in an instant and discover that what you thought was reality was in fact a social construction. One needn't get on a plane to the Middle East. Just put a hippie with a "Vegetable Rights & Peace" T-shirt in a maximum-security prison's exercise yard. The last thing he'll remember is a very large man named Tiny standing over him saying "Here endeth the lesson" as Tiny's fist heads towards his face. By the way, this experiment works equally well with anarcho-capitalist stockbrokers, Unitarian guidance counselors, and anyone else who operates on overly rosy assumptions about the nature of man in general or Tiny's sense of humor in particular.

This is why the "Jobs for Jihadists" thing has been so dismaying. It works on the assumption that the Islamic State doesn't really believe what it believes -- it's just venting its frustrations with a bad job market, political corruption, and the cancellation of Firefly. As I said last week, obviously "root causes" play a role, but so does crop rotation in the 14th century. Eventually you have to take people and their movements as you find them. Now of course, maybe there's a deeper strategy we're all missing. Maybe Obama wants to give them all jobs so that he can move this fight into his comfort zone by declaring a global war on "workplace violence." But I kind of doubt it.

The Tyranny of Clichés: How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas

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The Tyranny of Clichés: How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas

By Jonah Goldberg


What of Jihadi John?

Western Civilization is the bee's knees, but it's a lot more fragile than we realize (a point I will be making more and more in this space as it is in the wheelhouse of my next book). Again, unlike the Nazis, the Communists, and countless other evil movements, the Islamic State doesn't hide its barbarism and doesn't deny its horror. It broadcasts them to the world as a recruiting tool. And it works!

Sure, terrifying your enemies with atrocities is a very, very old tactic. But it's been rare in the civilized world for a while now. And, when combined with the digital revolution and social media, this is uncharted territory.

While beheading Christians and selling little girls into slavery turns off a majority of the world, including a majority of Muslims, it turns on a lot of people all the same. One such person is Mohammed Emwazi, a.k.a. Jihadi John. Now, ever since Mohammed Atta and his band of losers attacked us on 9/11, we've been talking about why relatively affluent and educated young men, many born and raised in the West (remember Johnny Taliban?), enlist in radical jihad. There's lots of interesting things to be said about all that. But what interests me right now is a single, simple point. The appeal of modernity, democracy, and the liberal order isn't nearly as powerful as we sometimes take for granted. Going by conventional reason and morality, it's a no-brainer; even the oppressed and impoverished have a better deal in the West than they would with the Islamic State. And yet, the opportunity to slaughter innocent people, destroy priceless artifacts, rape little girls, set dudes on fire, crucify Christians, fight fellow Muslims and/or maybe die horribly in the effort speaks to something deep within them. The claim that these recruits are just criminals looking for an excuse is sand-poundingly stupid. If all they wanted was an excuse for criminality, they don't need to fly to Syria for that. They can rob people outside their own homes. They want something more, something outside our extended order, something evil.

And what is dismaying to me is that they are honest about it. Normally, evil movements hide their deeds just well enough to give people who want to do nothing an excuse to do nothing. (Vladimir Putin is a master of this school of water-muddying.) The Islamic State, on the other hand, is marketing its evil. And it's working. They may not use the word "evil," but that really can't be the hang-up, can it? I mean, I'm always hearing people say actions speak louder than words. When someone rapes little girls and sets people on fire, and openly brags about it, I don't need to hear them also admit they know they're evil. That's asking too much of even evil people. Indeed, the fact that they don't think it's evil is what really puts the new-car shine on their evilness. What matters is that they do evil things and call them "good."

And while few in the West say we should do nothing (thank goodness for small favors), we still spend a remarkable amount of time talking around the threat and its nature. I don't think the Islamic State is an existential threat to the U.S. But I do know it wants to be. That alone is good enough reason to kill them all. Since when is posing an existential threat a minimum threshold for killing child-raping barbarian slavers?

What got me thinking about all this is a haunting letter from an Islamic State supporter in response to Graeme Wood's phenomenal Atlantic essay "What ISIS Really Wants." Apparently, Wood's piece is quite popular in the radical Islamist community because it takes the terror group seriously on its own terms.

Note: In this letter the pro–Islamic State guy uses "Muslims" as synonymous with the group's supporters. He says Wood's essay is "grounded in realism" and:

argues that not understanding what is happening is very dangerous, especially if fighting a war, one must fight the war that is real, not the invented one that one wishes to fight. Perhaps ironically, your [writings] . . . are most dangerous to the Muslims (not that it is necessarily meant to be so on your behalf), yet they are celebrated by Muslims who see them as pieces that speak the truth that so many try to deny, but also because [Muslims] know that deep down the idealists of the world will still ignore them.

What stands out to me that others don't seem to discuss much, is how the Islamic State, Osama [bin Laden] and others are operating as if they are reading from a script that was written 1,400 years ago. They not only follow these prophecies, but plan ahead based upon them. One would therefore assume that the enemies of Islam would note this and prepare adequately, but [it's] almost as if they feel that playing along would mean that they believe in the prophecies too, and so they ignore them and go about things their own way. . . .  [The] enemies of the Muslims may be aware of what the Muslims are planning, but it won't benefit them at all as they prefer to either keep their heads in the sand, or to fight their imaginary war based upon rational freedom-loving democrats vs. irrational evil terrorist madmen. With this in mind, maybe you can understand to some degree one of the reasons why many Muslims will share your piece. It's not because we don't understand what it is saying in terms of how to defeat the Muslims, rather it's because we know that those in charge will ignore it and screw things up anyway (emphasis added).

Hypocrisy, Reconsidered

All that talk about the Islamic State not being hypocrites reminds me I haven't ranted about hypocrisy in a while. I think hypocrisy is one of the great misunderstood sins of modern life. Since at least the time of Rousseau, hypocrophobia has plagued Western Civilization. For many people, it seems that it is better to be consistently wrong than to be intermittently right.

Advice columns overflow like a backed-up gas-station toilet with letters from parents fretting over the fact that they feel like hypocrites for telling their kids not to do drugs, since they themselves experimented with drugs when they were kids. The asininity of this has always amazed me. A huge part of being a parent involves applying the lessons you learned from your own life in an effort to make your child's lot in life a little easier or more fruitful. The notion that I should tell my kid to do more of her homework on the bus ride to school -- like I did -- or to start going to bars in high school -- like I did -- or to do any of the other dubious things I did just to avoid my own internal psychological conflict isn't just objectively absurd but disgustingly selfish. This shouldn't be a newsflash to any halfway-decent human: Being a parent isn't about you.

Obviously, hypocrisy is often a bad thing, but what stings in the sting of hypocrisy is the pointy end of a principle poking you in the ass. What I object to is the morally lazy and intellectually cowardly (or maybe it's morally cowardly and intellectually lazy?) way people respond to this fact.

The capacity to feel bad about our hypocrisy is literally one of the things that separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom. What makes us human is our capacity to create or identify ideals. They can be man-made ideals or divinely revealed ones, I don't really care. But I do know that wolverines have no principles and are therefore incapable of being hypocrites. Animals only have instincts. Humans are animals too, but the capacity to hold our instincts at bay, or to channel them toward productive ends, is what separates us from other animals and forms the bedrock of civilization.

Given that we are all made from the crooked timber of humanity, the only guaranteed way to avoid hypocrisy is to abandon one's principles or to make one's sins into principles themselves. A glutton who orders the left side of the menu at Arby's isn't a better person if he exhorts his neighbor to pig out like him -- but he would be less of a hypocrite. There will always be whorish men and women, and the world is surely better at the margins now that we no longer paint scarlet A's on those who society thinks fit that description. But that doesn't suggest the world would be a better place if moral slatterns persuaded everybody else to act like porn stars. "When Hugh Hefner moved out of the Playboy mansion the better to bring up his two young sons," Ramesh wrote almost 20 years ago, "nobody accused him of not living down to his principles."

I don't want more hypocrisy in the world, but I'd rather have more of it than have none at all.


If you hadn't heard, PolitiFact declared an entirely true statement of mine "half-true" because they define facts they don't like as half-truths. At first I figured I would unload on them here in this "news"letter, but I really couldn't wait. Here's my response in the Corner from earlier this week. An excerpt:

I have little use for Factcheckers, though I have plenty of use for facts and I believe in checking them. The problem with the Factcheckers is that they seem to think they have an authority they did not earn to tell other journalists what the facts are. That's bad enough, but they almost invariably end up objecting not to untruths but to truths they don't like. That often makes them combatants, hiding behind their self-appointed status as referees.

Because I will do everything necessary to defend this "news"letter from the charge of gratuitous profanity, let me put it this way: PolitiFact has the same utility as a large sack filled with private detectives, by which I mean it's as useful as a bag of dicks. But what I don't understand is why they would piss away so much credibility on an issue that matters so little. You'd think saying that my statement was true -- after literally finding that it was literally true -- would be a no-brainer. Buy a little credibility for yourself, shed a little bit of that reputation for being less advantageous than a huge purse with Richard York, Richard Cavett, Richard Van Dyke, and Richard Morris et al. crammed inside. But no, just as Aesop's scorpion must sting, PolitiFact's gotta be what it is.

Various & Sundry

Zoë Update: I don't really have one, though we are still actively looking for a good dog trainer. It's deeply frustrating that we feel the need to do this, given that we're such dog people. But the Dingo's dingo-ness has to be brought under control for her own sake. We just hope she stays regal. Oh, and by the way, could people following me on Twitter please stop calling Zoë a "he"? She's a girl, working on being a lady.

Many of you know me from my work in exotic dance and battle-to-the-death Bolivian shovel fighting. You may not know that I also occasionally speak to groups about various topics, including the passing scene here in Washington, D.C. One group that recently hired me for such a speech was the shadowy outfit you may know as the National Potato Council. While I'm always happy to give a shout-out in this "news"letter to the folks at YAF and other conservative groups that invite me to come speak, I'm usually wary of identifying private-sector types, for fear that I will either embarrass the groups that have paid me to speak or scare away other groups from paying me to do so in the future. ("You want us to hire the guy who talks to his couch to explain what's going on in Washington?") But it turns out that a lot of the folks at the National Potato Council are big readers of this "news"letter, and I was specifically asked if I could mention them here. I am happy to do so. They were a really wonderful bunch of people and I learned a lot from talking to them. And, lest you think I've been corrupted by their tuber-lucre, I will remind you that I am still on a low-carb diet. But corruption can be subtle. Please let me know if you see any sign that I'm becoming a pawn of Big Potato.

Given all the talk about patriotism of late, here's a twelve-year-old G-File I wrote on patriotism that a reader reminded me of after last week's "news"letter.

I thought Rich's piece was worth reading as well.

And so was Glenn Reynolds's

Kevin's response to PolitiFact makes mine seem like a love letter.

My column today has the admirable quality of doneness.

The weekend of March 14–16 my conversation with Bill Bennett on his new anti-pot book will air on CSPAN's Book TV. Check listings for details. Unless you're stoned already.

This story on the making of an overnight RINO will exacerbate your hoden angst.

The photo-shoot that launched Van Halen's civil war

The best reason to be an anonymous source

Don't call them taxpayers!

I double dog dare you not to love this.

Glow-in-the-dark ice cream!

Chill chat knows how to relax

Social network for farts

Majestic stock photos of unicorns

Sesame Street House of Cards

Most bizarre items left in cabs

What's really going on with that dress.

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