Saturday, November 02, 2013

A Turning of the Page for the IHT (the INYT), Yes, But a Turning Back

IHT readers complain about the International Herald Tribune's name change (to the International New York Times):
To realize what the name IHT meant, read Roger Cohen’s column, “Adieu IHT, bonjour INYT” (Oct. 15). Will the new name inspire the same romance? If loyalty to the IHT brand was as immense as Mr. Cohen describes, why change the name in the first place?
Renaat Horemans, Mol, Belgium
I remember reading my first European edition of the New York Herald Tribune on Tuesday, Aug. 1, 1961, upon arrival in London. Since then, except for two short stays in the United States, I have read it virtually every day. I was delighted in 1967 when the paper took a step away from New York exceptionalism by dropping the geographical reference in the masthead. The International Herald Tribune now sounded like a true international paper rather than an international edition of a U.S. paper, and year by year it seemed to grow more and more into that role. 
Yes, the resurrection of “New York” in the title is a “turning of the page,” but in my view it is a turning back of the page, which is a pity.
Joel McClellan, Geneva

Friday, November 01, 2013

Obama involved, publicly, from the beginning, with his aggressive public statements: The IRS conservative targeting scandal is an ugly story indeed

It’s past time for the media to begin asking President Obama tough questions about the IRS conservative targeting scandal 
says Fox's Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ).
After all he was involved, publicly, from the beginning.

 … What was sold to the American public as a low-level scandal perpetrated by a few rogue employees – a scandal stopped after senior officials became aware and asserted control – is now (to borrow a Watergate phrase) “no longer operative.”

Instead, we detail a long-running assault on the Tea Party, beginning shortly after its emergence in 2009, that is empowered, encouraged, and orchestrated not only by senior IRS officials in Washington, but also through outright targeting by the White House, Congressional Democrats, and the mainstream media.

In fact, the IRS was doing little more than focusing its attention exactly where the president of the United States told it to focus – on the groups the president himself identified as a “threat to democracy.”

Consider President Obama’s aggressive public statements – made just as we now know senior IRS officials were intentionally and aggressively scrutinizing conservative groups’ applications for tax exemption.

On August 9, 2010 the president warned of “attack ads run by shadowy groups with harmless-sounding names” during his weekly radio address.  The President said:  We don’t know who’s behind these ads and we don’t know who’s paying for them . . . you don’t know if it’s a foreign controlled corporation. ... The only people who don’t want to disclose the truth are people with something to hide.”

On September 16, 2010, President Obama once again warned that some unidentified “foreign-controlled entity” could be providing “millions of dollars” for “attack ads.”  Less than one week later, he complained that “nobody knows” the identities of the individuals who support conservative groups.

On September 22, 2010, President Obama warned of groups opposing his policies “pos[ing] as non-for-profit social and welfare trade groups” and he claimed such groups were “guided by seasoned Republican political operatives” and potentially supported by some unidentified “foreign controlled entity.”

On October 14, 2010, President Obama called organizations with “benign sounding” names “a problem for democracy”; the next week he complained about individuals who “hide behind those front groups,” called such groups a “threat to our democracy,” and claimed such groups were engaged in “unsupervised” spending.

Next, consider the IRS’s actions following those statements.  Not only did the IRS continue its targeting, it issued broad questionnaires that made unconstitutionally-intrusive inquiries designed to get answers to exactly the questions President Obama posed.

Who are your donors?

What is the political activity of your family and associates?

What are the passwords for your websites?

After all, according to the president, you’re only afraid to answer these questions if “you’ve got something to hide.”

The demagoguery is breathtaking.  Not only does he raise the wholly-unsubstantiated possibility of shadowy “foreign” involvement in the Tea Party groups, a charge incredible on its face, but he goes the extra mile of calling such groups, a “threat to our democracy.”

When the president of the United States declares these groups a “threat to our democracy” is it any surprise that his enthusiastic supporters (and donors) within the IRS responded with an unprecedented campaign of selective targeting, intimidation, and governmental intrusion?

One grows weary of stating the obvious, but if President Bush had declared a specific category of citizen groups a “threat to democracy” potentially run by “political operatives” or “foreign-controlled,” and the IRS launched an unprecedented campaign of targeting and intrusive questioning, the mainstream media would have been relentless not only in its independent investigations but in its calls for accountability – at the highest levels.

Was the president of the United States involved in the IRS scandal?  He was the one who identified the targets – in the most public manner possible.

A president singling out citizens groups for targeting and intrusive questioning merely because he dislikes their message and fears their political influence?

Now that is a “threat to democracy.”

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Where Did the Fear of Poisoned Halloween Candy Come From?

Where Did the Fear of Poisoned Halloween Candy Come From? asks Dan Lewis of Now I Know at the Smithsonian.
Although there have been reports of razor blades and other foreign objects embedded in Halloween candy (or apples—although anyone giving out an apple on Halloween is already suspect), these dangers are almost always obvious with the most cursory glance.

What about poison, which, being invisible and generally hard to detect, is the more nefarious way to taint candy? You have little reason to be concerned there either. Landers stated, “many reports” of such terrible acts have occurred, however, they are almost entirely the stuff of myth.

Almost entirely.

For nearly 30 years, University of Delaware sociologist Joel Best has been investigating allegations of strangers poisoning kids’ Halloween candy. As of this writing, he hasn’t identified a single confirmed example of a stranger murdering a child in this fashion.
Another danger to society, which various governments — from local to state-lever — have attempted to respond to and to counter, which turns out to be overwrought, exaggerated, and a simple myth…

Anyone Countering Leftist "Reforms" Is Now an "Immobilist"

To no one's surprise, Xavier Gorce manages to demonize anyone opposed to leftist reforms:

• And here we have our best-selling No sign model: light, sober, always in fashion…

It can be adapted to any theme: open unions, gay marriage, school controversies…

• Ideal for counter-protesting any type of reform…

• It is the sign for all mobilized immobilists

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Trust and Refrain (from Verifying)

Serguei on Impunity

• Assad to UN observers:
Don't worry about the noise!
We're just carrying out the destruction of conventional weapons…

No We Can't: Obama Is No Longer a Cool Guy for the Europeans, He Is a Cold Guy

When Barack Obama was elected in 2008, Europe was taken with a furious case of Obamamania.
writes Sylvie Kauffmann in Le Monde.
For a long time, the U.S. president retained a much higher popularity on the other side of the Atlantic than that of the average European leader, even when his popularity collapsed among his own citizens. Obama resembled neither Angela Merkel nor Nicolas Sarkozy. Obama was a cool president.

This summer, the image caved in. The "Yes We Can" president became the "Yes We Scan" leader. In press cartoons, large ears pushed out. It's not the repulsion inspired by his predecessor, George W. Bush — not yet — but the charm is gone. Without Hillary Clinton's talents, Barack Obama is not cool, he is cold.

 … Summoned to justify himself by the heads of state and government of Brazil, Mexico, France, and Germany, all friendly countries, the cool president has sought neither to apologize nor even to explain.


Truth be told, Barack Obama has lost count of the friendly leaders he has offended. Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, is furious at his Iran policy and makes no bones about it in Washington. Also concerned about the opening to Iran, the Saudis are furious regarding America's Syrian policy and sulk profoundly under their white ghutrah. Dilma Rousseff, president of Brazil, is furious about having been bugged and canceled her visit to Washington.

Sorely disappointed by Barack Obama's absconding at the Bali summit two weeks ago, leaders of Southeast Asia countries have still not figured out how the president of the most powerful country in the world, singing the praises of America's return to the Asia Pacific for the past four years, gave up a tour of the utmost importance due to budget problems.

David Cameron and François Hollande are having a hard time digesting the casualness with which Barack Obama treated them in the Syrian crisis, they who bravely marched to the frontlines only to realize later that the United States preferred to deal directly — and solo, if you please — with Vladimir Putin. And now it is Angela Merkel, the most placid of allies, the top student in her class, who gets angry.

 … Her disappointment is only more profound. She no longer has confidence in Barack Obama.

 … politically and commercially, the loss of confidence caused by the management of the NSA file by the Obama administration will do more damage than the last European Council.
En français :
Lorsque Barack Obama a été élu, en 2008, l'Europe a été saisie d'un furieux accès d'Obamania
écrit Sylvie Kauffmann dans Le Monde.
Longtemps, le président américain a conservé de l'autre côté de l'Atlantique une popularité bien supérieure à celle de la moyenne des dirigeants européens, même lorsque sa cote s'effondrait auprès de ses propres concitoyens. Obama ne ressemblait ni à Angela Merkel ni à Nicolas Sarkozy. Obama était un président cool.

Cet été, l'image a basculé. Le président du « yes we can » est devenu celui du « yes we scan ». Sur les dessins de presse, de grandes oreilles lui ont poussé. Ce n'est pas -– pas encore -– la répulsion qu'a pu inspirer son prédécesseur, George W. Bush, mais le charme s'est évaporé. Privé du talent d'Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama n'est plus cool, il est froid.

 … Sommé de se justifier par les chefs d'Etat et de gouvernement du Brésil, du Mexique, de France ou d'Allemagne, tous des pays amis, le président cool n'a cherché ni à s'excuser ni même à s'expliquer.


A vrai dire, Barack Obama ne compte plus les dirigeants amis qu'il s'est mis à dos. Benyamin Nétanyahou, le premier ministre israélien, est furieux de sa politique iranienne et le fait savoir à Washington. Egalement inquiets de l'ouverture vers l'Iran, les Saoudiens sont furieux de la politique syrienne des Etats-Unis et boudent sérieusement sous la ghutrah blanche. Dilma Rousseff, la présidente du Brésil, est furieuse d'avoir été mise sur écoute et a annulé sa visite à Washington.

Cruellement déçus par la défection de Barack Obama au sommet de Bali il y a deux semaines, les dirigeants des pays d'Asie du Sud-Est n'ont toujours pas compris comment le président du pays le plus puissant de la planète, qui leur chante le retour de l'Amérique dans l'Asie-Pacifique depuis quatre ans, renonce à une tournée de la première importance à cause de problèmes budgétaires.

David Cameron et François Hollande ont beaucoup de mal à digérer la désinvolture avec laquelle Barack Obama les a traités dans la crise syrienne, eux qui sont bravement montés au créneau mais ont compris un peu tard que les Etats-Unis préféraient traiter directement, et seuls-s'il-vous-plaît, avec Vladimir Poutine. Et voilà maintenant Angela Merkel, l'alliée la plus placide, la première de la classe, qui se met en colère.

 … la déception n'en est que plus profonde. Elle ne fait plus confiance à Barack Obama.

 … politiquement et commercialement, la perte de confiance provoquée par la gestion du dossier NSA par l'administration Obama fera plus de dégâts que le dernier Conseil européen.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Just So There's No Mistake and You REALLY Know How Bad T'Is Over There with the Murderous Rednecks in Gun-Lovin' Country

Une nuit par an,
le crime est légal.

In France, distributors of The Purge have decided to give the anti-conservative movie an English-language title: American Nightmare.

Just so, y'know, audiences know where the really inhumane and monstrous people live and in what country the real danger to humanity comes from…

Monday, October 28, 2013

36-Year-Old Dane on Welfare Since She Was 16: the "Danish model of government is close to a religion"

It began as a stunt intended to prove that hardship and poverty still existed in this small, wealthy country, but it backfired badly
writes Suzanne Daley in a New York Times article which states outright that the "Danish model of government is close to a religion here".
Visit a single mother of two on welfare, a liberal member of Parliament goaded a skeptical political opponent, see for yourself how hard it is.  

It turned out, however, that life on welfare was not so hard. The 36-year-old single mother, given the pseudonym “Carina” in the news media, had more money to spend than many of the country’s full-time workers. All told, she was getting about $2,700 a month, and she had been on welfare since she was 16.

 … Denmark has among the highest marginal income-tax rates in the world, with the top bracket of 56.5 percent kicking in on incomes of more than about $80,000. But in exchange, the Danes get a cradle-to-grave safety net that includes free health care, a free university education and hefty payouts to even the richest citizens. 

Parents in all income brackets, for instance, get quarterly checks from the government to help defray child-care costs. The elderly get free maid service if they need it, even if they are wealthy.

 … “In the past, people never asked for help unless they needed it,” said Karen Haekkerup, the minister of social affairs and integration, who has been outspoken on the subject. “My grandmother was offered a pension and she was offended. She did not need it.

“But now people do not have that mentality. They think of these benefits as their rights. The rights have just expanded and expanded. And it has brought us a good quality of life. But now we need to go back to the rights and the duties. We all have to contribute.” 

 … Joachim B. Olsen, the skeptical politician from the Liberal Alliance party who visited Carina 16 months ago in her pleasant Copenhagen apartment, is particularly alarmed. He says Sweden, which is already considered generous, has far fewer citizens living on government benefits. If Denmark followed Sweden’s example, it would have about 250,000 fewer people living on benefits of various sorts. 

“The welfare state here has spiraled out of control,” Mr. Olsen said. “It has done a lot of good, but we have been unwilling to talk about the negative side. For a very long time it has been taboo to talk about the Carinas.” 

 … It remains possible that the cost-cutting push will hurt the left-wing coalition that leads the government. By and large, though, the changes have passed easily in Parliament and been happily endorsed by conservatives like Mr. Olsen, who does his best to keep his meeting with Carina in the headlines. 

Carina was not the only welfare recipient to fuel the sense that Denmark’s system has somehow gotten out of kilter. Robert Nielsen, 45, made headlines last September when he was interviewed on television, admitting that he had basically been on welfare since 2001. 

Mr. Nielsen said he was able-bodied but had no intention of taking a demeaning job, like working at a fast-food restaurant. He made do quite well on welfare, he said. He even owns his own co-op apartment. 

Unlike Carina, who will no longer give interviews, Mr. Nielsen, called “Lazy Robert” by the news media, seems to be enjoying the attention. He says that he is greeted warmly on the street all the time. “Luckily, I am born and live in Denmark, where the government is willing to support my life,” he said.
Update: Worse Than Albania — Waiting in Sweden's national health care queues can take over a year

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Omaha Beach Seen From the Skies

Denise Chery has a series of a dozen photos on the website of Geo magazine (a European version of the National Geographic with a green border replacing the yellow one) showing Normandy from the skies.

One third of those show battlefields from the D-Day landings in June 1944, including Pointe du Hoc, the military cemetery at Omaha Beach, and the remains of the artificial harbor at Arromanches; in addition, there's the statue of William the Conqueror from the point he left the continent in 1066 for the conquest of England
Read a brief account of the D-Day landings in 1944