BDS, MLA, and One Rockin’ Shavuot Night: Asaf Romorowsky

The Rolling Stones’ first concert in Israel began as the holiday of Shavuot ended, and quite fittingly, too. When better for rock-n-roll royals to journey to the Holy Land than during one of Judaism’s three festivals of pilgrimage? Moreover, when better to affirm Israel’s identity as a Jewish state and homeland? The Stones’ performance in Israel was an implicit rebuke to artists—most notoriously, Roger Waters—who have chosen to boycott Israel selectively. While a slew of acts have canceled performances—among them Elvis Costello, Snoop Dogg, Carlos Santana, and Gil Scott-Heron—the Stones enthusiastically embraced their gig in the Jewish state, with all the panache that has made them the longest-running rock act in the world.

Around the same time as the Stones’ gala night in Tel Aviv, the Modern Language Association (MLA), the premier association of literature scholars in the United States, was releasing the results of yet another anti-Israel initiative. It put the pro-BDS (Boycotts, Divestments, Sanctions) measure to a vote of its nearly-30,000 members—who rejected it decisively. Fully 94% of MLA members proved unwilling to endorse bigotry, dishonesty, and the shameful wish (albeit expressed by only 6% of its members) to single out the Jewish state for opprobrium.

Though the MLA ruled in favor of Israel, the episode revealed that such poisonous beliefs have quite a toehold in an organization supposedly devoted to fair-minded inquiry. To provide an opportunity for members to debate the resolution, the MLA set up a members-only listserv on which opinions for and against it could be posted. The comments on that listserv have now been made public and show the true colors of some of the groups members—who prove to be paranoid, obsessed with conspiracy theories, virulently anti-Israel, and even anti-Semitic. While every organization has its kooks, these are academics charged with teaching our country’s young people. That they are willing to spew such hatred should alarm anyone who expects scholars to place a premium on truth.

One commenter alluded to “Zionist attack dogs” who put pressure “on universities by Zionist funders and lobby groups to quell any dissent.” A similar “conspiratorial” comment on the listserv made use of that traditional anti-Semitic trope: that Jews control the media, government, and academia, and use their influence to suppress criticism of Israel. The individual who posted this dreck also decried the “humongous influence that Jewish scholars have in the decision-making process of Academia in general.” Clearly, to this worthy professor, opponents of the initiative were not simply in honest disagreement with it, but outsiders gunning for control. It never seems to have occurred to the faction that challenges Israel’s right to exist that the fault may lie with the weakness of their argument, not with the tactics of their ideological opponents.


Prime Minister Stephen Harper today issued the following statement in response to the situation in Israel:

“The indiscriminate rocket attacks from Gaza on Israel are terrorist acts, for which there is no justification. It is evident that Hamas is deliberately using human shields to further terror in the region.

“Failure by the international community to condemn these reprehensible actions would encourage these terrorists to continue their appalling actions. Canada calls on its allies and partners to recognize that these terrorist acts are unacceptable and that solidarity with Israel is the best way of stopping the conflict.

“Canada is unequivocally behind Israel. We support its right to defend itself, by itself, against these terror attacks, and urge Hamas to immediately cease their indiscriminate attacks on innocent Israeli civilians.

“Canada reiterates its call for the Palestinian government to disarm Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups operating in Gaza, including the Iranian proxy, Palestinian Islamic Jihad.”


Barack Obama did not blow apart Hillary Clinton’s huge lead during the 2008 Democratic primaries just because he was a landmark African-American candidate, new to the scene, and a skilled campaigner. Even Democrats were all Clintoned out [1].

By such weariness, I don’t suggest that either of the Clintons is unpopular. Indeed, Americans apparently look fondly back on the high-growth 1990s as the continuation of the Reagan-Bush boom years, and a time when Democrats and Republicans finally fixed budget deficits. (Note well that when Obama went back to the Clinton-era tax rates for the more affluent, the deficit dipped, but certainly did not approach the balanced budget that was once achieved by spending discipline under the Clinton-Gingrich compromise.)

The problem instead is Hillary Clinton herself [2]. She is not a very good speaker, and is prone to shrill outbursts and occasional chortling. She has a bad habit of committing serial gaffes (e.g., speaking too candidly), and what she says on Monday is often contradicted by her rantings on Tuesday. She seems cheap and obsessed with raking in free stuff. When Bill steps in to correct her mistakes, either sloppily or out of some strange psychological spite, he usually makes things even worse. We saw that often in 2008 [3] and are seeing it again now. But aside from the cosmetics of her political style, the Clintons are faced with two fundamental obstacles in 2016.

One, Hillary Clinton seems to be interested in running on the elite progressive themes of equality and fairness. The problem here is obvious. Few Americans have more enriched themselves by trading on their public service than have she and her husband. A George Marshall [4] in retirement Hillary is not.

With the Clintons there is always a catch to the apologies for their progressive graspingness. At a time of record student debt, sky-rocketing tuition, and scandalous university perks, Hillary Clinton is now charging over $200,000 [5] for a brief run-of-the-mill “I am Hillary” speech — no landmark political announcements, no insights into foreign policy, nothing much other than standard liberal therapeutic boilerplate trading on her increased market value due to her recent tenure as chief foreign affairs officer of the United States.

When these exorbitant fees were questioned by the liberal media, she seemed stunned that any would doubt her progressive fides, and cited her past caring for the poorer off. Then she backed off and assured us that the money went to “charity.” Of course, with the Clintons, we know there is always a nuance and tweak to follow. So next, the “charity” turned out to be the Clinton Foundation [6], which tends to fund the extravagant private jet travel of mostly Bill and Hillary and their appendages.

One Percenters as Populist Poseurs


Fewer than half of U.S. adults are working full time. Why? Slow growth and the perverse incentives of ObamaCare

There has been a distinctive odor of hype lately about the national jobs report for June. Most people will have the impression that the 288,000 jobs created last month were full-time. Not so.

The Obama administration and much of the media trumpeting the figure overlooked that the government numbers didn’t distinguish between new part-time and full-time jobs. Full-time jobs last month plunged by 523,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. What has increased are part-time jobs. They soared by about 800,000 to more than 28 million. Just think of all those Americans working part time, no doubt glad to have the work but also contending with lower pay, diminished benefits and little job security.

On July 2 President Obama boasted that the jobs report “showed the sixth straight month of job growth” in the private economy. “Make no mistake,” he said. “We are headed in the right direction.” What he failed to mention is that only 47.7% of adults in the U.S. are working full time. Yes, the percentage of unemployed has fallen, but that’s worth barely a Bronx cheer. It reflects the bleak fact that 2.4 million Americans have become discouraged and dropped out of the workforce. You might as well say that the unemployment rate would be zero if everyone quit looking for work.
Last month involuntary part-timers swelled to 7.5 million, compared with 4.4 million in 2007. Way too many adults now depend on the low-wage, part-time jobs that teenagers would normally fill. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen had it right in March when she said: “The existence of such a large pool of partly unemployed workers is a sign that labor conditions are worse than indicated by the unemployment rate.”

There are a number of reasons for our predicament, most importantly a historically low growth rate for an economic “recovery.” Gross domestic product growth in 2013 was a feeble 1.9%, and it fell at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 2.9% in the first quarter of 2014.

But there is one clear political contribution to the dismal jobs trend. Many employers cut workers’ hours to avoid the Affordable Care Act’s mandate to provide health insurance to anyone working 30 hours a week or more. The unintended consequence of President Obama’s “signature legislation”? Fewer full-time workers. In many cases two people are working the same number of hours that one had previously worked.

Hank Campbell:The Corruption of Peer Review Is Harming Scientific Credibility

Dubious studies on the danger of hurricane names may be laughable. But bad science can cause bad policy.

Academic publishing was rocked by the news on July 8 that a company called Sage Publications is retracting 60 papers from its Journal of Vibration and Control, about the science of acoustics. The company said a researcher in Taiwan and others had exploited peer review so that certain papers were sure to get a positive review for placement in the journal. In one case, a paper’s author gave glowing reviews to his own work using phony names.

Acoustics is an important field. But in biomedicine faulty research and a dubious peer-review process can have life-or-death consequences. In June, Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health and responsible for $30 billion in annual government-funded research, held a meeting to discuss ways to ensure that more published scientific studies and results are accurate. According to a 2011 report in the monthly journal Nature Reviews Drug Discovery, the results of two-thirds of 67 key studies analyzed by Bayer researchers from 2008-2010 couldn’t be reproduced.

That finding was a bombshell. Replication is a fundamental tenet of science, and the hallmark of peer review is that other researchers can look at data and methodology and determine the work’s validity. Dr. Collins and co-author Dr. Lawrence Tabak highlighted the problem in a January 2014 article in Nature. “What hope is there that other scientists will be able to build on such work to further biomedical progress,” if no one can check and replicate the research, they wrote.

Don’t Put Terrorists on Trial :Treating Terrorist Attacks as Criminal Incidents is a Futile Approach. By Daniel Pipes

The Obama administration has brought an accused Libyan terrorist named Ahmed Abu Khattala to Washington for trial. His saga reveals how the government views the Islamist threat, and it’s discouraging. Fortunately, a much better alternative exists.

Abu Khattala stands accused of taking part in the murder of an ambassador and three other Americans in Benghazi in September 2012. After an achingly slow investigation, during which time the suspect lived in the open and defiantly gave media interviews, the American military seized him on June 15. After being transported by sea and air to Washington, D.C., Abu Khattala was jailed, provided with a defense attorney, Michelle Peterson, indicted, arraigned, and, after listening to an Arabic translation of the proceedings, he pleaded not guilty to a single charge of conspiracy and requested a halal diet. He potentially faces life in prison.

This scenario presents two problems. First, Abu Khattala enjoys the full panoply of protections offered by the U.S. legal system (he actually was read his Miranda rights, meaning his right to stay silent and to consult with a lawyer), making conviction uncertain. As the New York Times explains, proving the charges against him will be “particularly challenging” because of the circumstances of the attacks, which took place in the midst of a civil war and in a country brimming with hostility to the United States, where concerns about security meant that U.S. law investigators had to wait for weeks to go to the crime scenes to collect evidence, and the prosecution depends on testimony from Libyan witnesses brought over to the United States who may well falter under cross-examination.

Secondly, what good does a conviction bring? If all goes well, a minor operative will be taken out of commission, leaving the ideological sources, the funding apparatus, the command-and-control structure, and the terrorist network untouched. A years-long, cumbersome, expensive, and draining effort will prove a point, not damage the enemy. If Abu Khattala is convicted, administration officials can crow, but Americans will be only marginally safer.

This futility recalls the 1990s, when terrorist attacks were routinely treated as criminal incidents and handled in courts of law, rather than as warfare to be dealt with using military force. In response, I complained in 1998 that the U.S. government saw terrorist violence “not as the ideological war it is, but as a sequence of discrete criminal incidents,” a mistaken approach that turns the U.S. military “into a sort of global police force and requires it to have an unrealistically high level of certainty before it can go into action,” requiring it to collect evidence of the sort that can stand up in a U.S. court of justice.

A Portrait of Death: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi : Meet the Man Who Has Replaced Bin Laden as the Leader of Global Jihad By Tom Rogan

A nameless woman “dumped on a street, arms and legs cut off, entrails eviscerated” — this is just one testament from Bing West’s account of Fallujah in 2004.

This was the first mini-caliphate of Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). West’s quote still matters, because it sums up the real-world impact of Salafi jihadism, the ideology of sick totalitarianism that once inspired Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and that now motivates Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Leading ISIS, Baghdadi is painting Iraq and Syria with the blood of all those who do not yield. And be under no illusions: ISIS does not believe in geographic boundaries. The group intends to export death westward. Its agenda is global.

Nevertheless, now that Baghdadi has stepped out into the open, we can more closely examine his character and agenda. Effective counter-terrorism analysis demands the scrutiny of personalities. Doing so helps us understand what a particular group might be planning next. Applied to Salafi jihadists, this task is a very sobering one. That’s certainly the case with Baghdadi.

This man is a true portrait of death. Having made his name as a battlefield commander and brutal administrator along the Euphrates River in Iraq’s Anbar Province, Baghdadi is the ultimate consequentialist, meaning that he’ll do anything to build his power and achieve his ends. Although details on his pre-2011 activities in Iraq are not easily accessible, we can confidently surmise two things about the leader.

First, he was personally involved in some grotesque crimes. That’s because AQI commanders earned their stripes through the creative pursuit of maximum misery. Whether using the mentally ill as suicide-bomb mules or blowing up crowds of children, AQI has a sense of ordained purpose that propels it to unrestrained violence. In Ramadi, a city in Anbar, AQI’s domination led to an exodus of all who had the means to leave, including many professionals, businessmen, and civil servants. They left behind a deathly ghost town. As Richard Shultz notes in his study of Anbar Province during the Iraq War, AQI’s death fetish was so extreme that it rejected the most solemn of Anbar’s cultural customs: the ability of a family to bury its dead. Indeed, hiding the body of one tribal sheikh it had murdered, AQI sparked a revolution. We know that Baghdadi was part of this; if he hadn’t been, his rise to the top of AQI and then ISIS wouldn’t have been possible. But what AQI’s history in Iraq really tells us is that men like Baghdadi are incapable of strategic caution. Instead, they embrace bloodlust as an end in itself.

Second, though he lacks strategic caution, we can assume that Baghdadi is astute about the need for tactical awareness. After all, he’s proven himself good at staying alive. Having evaded the exceptional counter-terrorism campaign led by General Stanley McChrystal’s Joint Special Operations Command, Baghdadi clearly understands and can adapt to the capabilities of his adversaries.

Obamacare’s Biggest Legal Threat: John Fund

In Halbig, the courts may finally force Obama to work with Congress if he wants to rewrite the law.

The legal positions of President Obama’s Justice Department have been slapped down unanimously a remarkable 13 times in the Supreme Court in the last two years. Over and over, even Obama’s own two appointees to the court — Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — have held that the president has exceeded his authority and violated the separation of powers. This coming week, we could see the second-highest court in the land rule that the administration broke the law in enforcing a key provision of Obamacare, calling into question once again Obama’s fidelity to the Constitution — and further endangering his signature program.

The case of Halbig v. Sebelius (since renamed Halbig v. Burwell, for the current HHS secretary) was argued before a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit Court in March. It attacks the central nervous system of Obamacare — the government exchanges that were set up to subsidize health insurance for low-income consumers. If the Supreme Court ultimately finds that the Obama administration violated the law in doling out those subsidies, it could force a wholesale revision of Obamacare. In January, The Hill quoted a key Obamacare supporter as saying that Halbig was “probably the most significant existential threat to the Affordable Care Act.” Jonathan Turley, a noted liberal constitutional-law expert at George Washington Law School, recently agreed, writing in the Los Angeles Times that Halbig “could leave Obamacare on life support.”

President Obama has increasingly exasperated both judges and constitutional scholars with his boasts about going around Congress when it doesn’t give him what he wants. “I’ve got a pen, and I’ve got a phone,” he told reporters before his first Cabinet meeting of 2014, in January. That attitude has prompted his decision to rewrite Obamacare at least 23 times without any involvement of Congress. If Obama’s actions in Halbig are found unconstitutional, then other parts of Obamacare will become more vulnerable to legal challenge, and Congress will probably have a much bigger say in rewriting or reversing aspects of the law.

After all, even Obama has conceded that Obamacare is, to put it politely, rough-hewn. “Obviously we didn’t do a good enough job in terms of how we crafted the law,” he told NBC’s Chuck Todd in November 2013. A prime example? Obamacare established an insurance exchange for each state and authorized the federal government to operate the exchanges in states that chose not to set up their own. But Obamacare’s authors wanted to create strong incentives for states to set up their own health-insurance exchanges — they mandated penalties for states that opted out. In addition, because Obamacare needed the support of every single Democratic senator (plus the two independents in the 2009 Senate), the law’s supporters were forced to accommodate the demands of key fence-sitters. One such was Ben Nelson, then a Democratic senator from Nebraska, who was concerned about excessive federal control of the exchanges. To gain Nelson’s support, the law specified that subsidies for Obamacare could only go through “an Exchange established by the State.” To the surprise of most, over two-thirds of the states declined to establish their own exchanges.


This column was originally published in The Washington Times, Sunday, March 20, 2011. It will be republished at

President Obama has given new meaning to that epithet “imperial presidency.” It was slung at Richard M. Nixon not only for his extravagant White House “palace guard” — some in kitschy uniforms — but for his more serious unconstitutional overreaching.

But though imperial in his style, Mr. Obama reigns; he does not rule.

Whether on domestic or foreign policy, Mr. Obama abdicates to congressional or bureaucratic control, then spins the resulting muddle as something for which he is not responsible. One sees, for example, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen pontificating far above their pay grades, only to be contradicted either by events or Mr. Obama himself. The president takes a hands-on approach only in maintaining his left-wing political base, be they Wisconsin unionists or Washington lobbies.

This standard operating procedure is reinforced by Mr. Obama’s denigration of historic American accomplishments, often on foreign soil. In the one international arena where he has sought leadership, relations with the Muslim world, the result has been an almost total disaster. Having made what he considered two seminal speeches offering renewed friendship with Islam, he now finds American interests in jeopardy in both locales. Turkey, once a stalwart NATO ally and the site of his first lecture, defies the West on the Iranian nuclear weapons issue, the greatest threat now facing the alliance. His Cairo speech, seemingly falling on deaf ears, was followed by his bemused administration fostering regime change but adding little to the still-undetermined outcome in Egypt.

Of course, Mr. Obama did not create these long-simmering crises. But he contributes to them through his administration’s lack of faith in American power, hard and soft. Favoring multilateralism to American leadership, Ambassador Susan Rice preaches that gospel at the United Nations but neglects reform of the organization’s abysmal corruption and inadequacy. Only when Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi began slaughtering his own people did Washington join the move to redress the charade of Libya’s prominence on the U.N. Human Rights Council.

Aristotle observed nature’s abhorrence of a vacuum — the “horror vacui” — and we are getting a demonstration geopolitically when the world’s paramount power chooses not to lead. Or worse still, when Mr. Obama trumpets a policy without following through. Minor players take the field, exacerbating regional conflicts in an increasingly intertwined world.


As the IDF continues to send the message back to Hamas, now as expected, we hear that “both sides” ought to reflect and stand down.

How bogus to imagine that the Jewish State and Hamas even share the same universe.

For The New York Times it’s already Springtime against Israel because the Jewish State got fed up with swallowing 200 rockets a day – on and off for 10 years. “Israel Hits Mosque and Clinic in Gaza,” runs the latest headline in the Times in an effort to rouse more Israel bashing as it forgets to mention that mosques and clinics and kindergartens are the places from where these ruthless terrorists fire their weapons.

Just yesterday a British journalist collared me and, with that British smile, asked me if I ever paused to consider “the point of view of the other side.” I explained that while German bombs were falling on London, I do not recall Winston Churchill taking a moment to reflect upon the point of view of Adolph Hitler.

Does that answer the question, and if not, Jake Tapper did a marvelous job crushing a PLO mouthpiece when she began giving it the “both sides” song and dance. He nullified her point to point and yes, Jake Tapper works for CNN, so you can never be too sure about anything.

Although you can be sure about the rest of CNN, especially its man on the scene Ben Wedeman, reporting from Gaza, or maybe from inside Israel. In any case, good ol’ Ben was unhappy. This is not a direct quote, but close: “Hamas keeps firing rockets into Israel but they are not hitting anybody. They’re landing in open spaces. So what’s the use?”

We hear you, Ben. Jews are not being killed enough. So what’s the use?