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Night Thoughts

1) When I write about our culture — and other cultures — I often quote a lyric: “You’ve got to be carefully taught.” Who taught yesterday’s murderer that cops were anti-black and at war against blacks? Who taught him that the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner were not accidental deaths — tragedies — but racist murders?

He did not come out of the womb believing those things, or disposed to believe those things. He was taught them. These lies were planted in his head, and he acted on them.

2) Now and then, I think back to why I rejected the Left, many years ago — when I was in college. One of the reasons was, they always kept the racial pot boiling. They would never let the pot cool off. It seemed to me they did not want racial harmony. They preferred strife, regarding it as more “authentic” or something. Harmony was for Toms.

3) About a week ago, a howling mob marched on the street below my window. This was unsettling to me, because I’m used to seeing howling mobs on television, in other countries. I had never had one under my window. They were chanting obscenities against the police.

There was a whiff of fascism about them — a strong whiff. They were not engaged in democratic protest. They were a Brownshirt-like mob.

4) In late November, Farrakhan gave a speech at Morgan State University, inciting race war, basically. Read about it here. “We’re going to die anyway,” said Farrakhan. “Let’s die for something.”

Listen, I’m all for free speech. Rah First Amendment. Me good civil libertarian. But are you allowed to shout “Fire!” in a crowded theater? Are you allowed to incite race war on college campuses?

I suppose so. Kind of problematic, though.

5) Sharpton is quoting that old Gandhi saying: “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” Nice saying. But when I think about Brown and Garner, and the execution of these cops, I don’t think “an eye for an eye.” I don’t think of any kind of equality. Do you?

An eye for an eye is when a gang kills one of yours and then you kill one of theirs. Retaliation. Tit-for-tat.

The deaths of Brown and Garner were tragic and accidental. The murder of these policemen was just that: premeditated, cold-blooded murder.

6) Many years ago, I wrote a piece reviewing Sharpton’s career, to that point. He is an inciter par excellence. He has a pattern of pretending that accidental deaths are racist murders. Let me quote from that piece:

August of 1991 saw “Crown Heights,” the period of madness that began when a car driven by a Hasidic Jew careened out of control, killing a seven-year-old black child, Gavin Cato. Riots broke out. A rabbinical student, Yankel Rosenbaum, was lynched. Over a hundred others were injured. The city was on the verge of breaking apart.

And what did Sharpton have to say? In part, he said, “The world will tell us that [Gavin Cato] was killed by accident. . . . All we want to say is what Jesus said: If you offend one of these little ones, you got to pay for it. No compromise. Pay for your deeds.”

Here is another taste of Sharpton’s rhetoric: “If the Jews want to get it on, tell them to pin their yarmulkes back and come over to my house.”

In 1995, there was Freddy’s Fashion Mart. I don’t have the heart to get back into it now. Suffice it to say, there was more Sharpton incitement, more murder. The details are in the above-linked piece.

7) The mayor of New York said that the murder of a police officer is “an attack on all of us.” I guess there is room for such figurative speech. I know there is. But it seems to me the murders weren’t really attacks on me. I’m just fine. They were attacks on the murdered, and their families.

8) I have seen a headline tonight: “Civil rights leaders fear backlash.” For the last many years — since 9/11 — I have seen one headline, whenever there is an Islamist act of terror: “Leaders fear backlash,” or something like that. I see lots of acts of terror. The backlash, not so much.

Is that callous to say? It is a frank observation, regardless.

9) I appreciated a column by Howard Safir, a former police commissioner here in New York. (WFB had him to an editorial dinner one night. Safir’s uncle was the cop who caught Willie Sutton, the bank robber.)

Safir writes, “We have seen nothing but police bashing from some of the highest offices in the land.” Yes, that is true. He also said, “Police lives matter.” Well put.

10) In a September issue of National Review, I wrote an essay about cops, here. It was called “A Job Like No Other.” At the time, anti-police sentiment was being whipped up, in the wake of the Ferguson, Mo., incident.

Today, I was asking myself, as I have before: Who would be a cop? Who would put his neck on the line? It’s one thing to put your neck on the line for a society appreciative of your doing so. That’s a payoff, so to speak. But if you’re just going to get dumped on, for doing your job — who needs it?

We need it. I am extremely grateful for those who serve as policemen. I don’t want to do it myself. We would be at the mercy of barbarians without them. Sometimes we are anyway.

11) The two dead policemen were named Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu. Obviously avatars of white privilege.

‘Impatient’ Obama Calls for ‘Patient Dialogue’ on Race Relations

President Obama responded to black activists who deny that racial progress has been made in the United States by arguing that they are preempting the possibility of further progress.

“There’s no reason for folks to be patient. I’m impatient. That’s why in the wake of what happened in Ferguson and what happened in New York, we’ve initiated task forces that in 90 days, are going to be providing very specific recommendations,” he told Candy Crowley during an interview that aired Friday on CNN’s State of the Union. “On the other hand, I think an unwillingness to acknowledge that progress has been made cuts off the possibility of further progress. If – if critics want to suggest that America is inherently and irreducibly racist, then why bother even working on it? I’ve seen change in my own life. So has this country. And those who would deny that, I think, actually foreclose the possibility of further progress rather than advancing it.”

The president gave the interview on Friday. Late Saturday night, he called for “patient dialogue” in statement on the murder of two police officers in Brooklyn.

“I unconditionally condemn today’s murder of two police officers in New York City,” Obama said. “Two brave men won’t be going home to their loved ones tonight, and for that, there is no justification. The officers who serve and protect our communities risk their own safety for ours every single day – and they deserve our respect and gratitude every single day. Tonight, I ask people to reject violence and words that harm, and turn to words that heal – prayer, patient dialogue, and sympathy for the friends and family of the fallen.”

Tags: Sunday Shows December 21 2014

Paul Slams ‘The Rubio-Obama Foreign Policy’

Senator Rand Paul (R., Ky.) doesn’t plan to let Republican rivals get away with tying him to President Obama’s foreign policy.

Paul’s team turned responded to Senator Marco Rubio’s latest critique of his support for normalizing relations with Cuba by turning the attack back on the Florida Republican.

“With all due respect, Senator Marco Rubio was captain of the GOP cheerleading team for Obama’s arming of Syrian rebels, bombing Libya resulting in a jihadist wonderland, and illegally giving foreign aid to Egypt’s military government,” Doug Stafford, a senior advisor to Paul, said in a statement to National Review Online. “The Rubio-Obama foreign policy has made the Middle East and North Africa less safe.”

Rubio dubbed Paul “a supporter of the Obama foreign policy” on Sunday morning when NBC’s Chuck Todd asked for a reaction to Paul’s Friday suggestion that Rubio’s Cuba policy is isolationist.

“My interest here is singular,” Rubio said. ”And that is freedom and democracy for the people of Cuba. I want people in Cuba to have what people in the Bahamas have, what people in Jamaica have, what people in the Dominican Republic have, which is freedom and elections. And I just don’t think that this policy that the president has put in place furthers that goal.”


Tags: Sunday Shows December 21 2014

December 21, 2014

Again: Paul Targets Rubio on Twitter

Senator Rand Paul (R., Ky.) took to Twitter again on Sunday to spar with Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) about their disagreement regarding President Obama’s Cuba policy, after Rubio called Paul “a supporter of the Obama foreign policy.”

Tags: Sunday Shows December 21 2014


On Fear and Trust, Advent and Christmas, Dark and Light

This morning at Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Cardinal Timothy Dolan — a pastor to a grieving NYPD — explained how he heard the news that Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu had been murdered:

Yesterday afternoon, I arrived for Mass at St. Simon Stock Parish in the Bronx, about 4:15. There, as usual, were police officers assigned to cover the event. However, instead of their characteristically buoyant greeting, I found them somber and downcast. They then told me the chilling news of the execution of their two brothers.

The parish is right across from Precinct 46 headquarters, so I asked the officers to take me over. There I was able to spend time with thirty or so of them, meeting them, embracing them, trying to console them, praying with and for them. As you observed so well yesterday, Mayor de Blasio, it was for them, a “death in the family.”

Later, as I was stumbling through Mass in Spanish for that wonderfully faithful parish in that challenged neighborhood, I saw out of the corner of my eye, in a chapel off the side of the main altar, hidden from public view, two policemen, on their knees, hats on the floor, heads bowed, hands folded, before the Blessed Sacrament. I silently prayed that they heard those words deep down, “Be not afraid! I am with you!”

He went on to say:

Commissioner Bratton, Chief O’Neill, would you tell your officers that God’s people gathered at St. Patrick’s this morning thundered with prayers for and with them, and that we love them, we mourn with them, we need them, we respect them, we are proud of them, we thank them!

I’ve learned in my six years here that, yes, New York, this huge, throbbing metropolis, can indeed be a place of hurt, darkness, fear, and fracture, that our celebrated grit and in-your-face realism can at times turn brash.

But I’ve also learned that New York can also be that “Little Town of Bethlehem,” from which comes, not darkness, division, and death, but light, unity, and life. That’s New York! That’s Bethlehem! That’s Christmas!

Earlier, reflecting on what happened yesterday, the calendar, and the Gospel, Cardinal Dolan said:

Never is the hope of the good news of God’s promise and fulfillment erased for a believer, and the more it is tested the stronger it gets: so, more than ever, “we need a little Christmas right this very moment!”

How providential: today, December 21st, is the darkest day of the year, the day of least light as the sun is at its lowest point.

Keep reading this post . . .

Rubio: Rand Paul Is ‘A Supporter of the Obama Foreign Policy’

Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) has opened a new line of attack on Senator Rand Paul’s foreign policy principles. Where many Republicans have blasted the Kentucky tea partier as an isolationist, Rubio is tying him to President Obama.

“Rand Paul has, if he wants to align himself and become a supporter of the Obama foreign policy, particularly towards Cuba, that’s his right,” Rubio said on Meet the Press when asked about Paul’s very public disagreement with him. “My interest here is singular. And that is freedom and democracy for the people of Cuba. I want people in Cuba to have what people in the Bahamas have, what people in Jamaica have, what people in the Dominican Republic have, which is freedom and elections. And I just don’t think that this policy that the president has put in place furthers that goal.”

Rubio’s comments are the latest in an exchange that began when the Florida Republican was asked what he thinks of Paul’s support for Obama’s decision to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba.

“He doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” Rubio said Thursday.

Paul punched back on Friday. “[I]f the embargo doesn’t hurt Cuba, why do you want to keep it?” he tweeted at Rubio, whom he described as “acting like an isolationist who wants to retreat to our borders and perhaps build a moat.” 

Rubio also defended the embargo. “American companies in Cuba had their assets seized. And so, in order to prevent that, that was the reason why the embargo was put in place,” he said. “The new purpose of the embargo in the 21st century was to serve as leverage, and leverage towards democracy. We now have sanctions in place with the embargo that allows us to remove those sanctions. And it’s codified in exchange for a democratic opening. What the president has done here is given away much of that leverage in exchange for zero democratic opening.”

Tags: Rand Paul , Marco Rubio , Cuba , Barack Obama , Sunday Shows December 21 2014

‘Patient Dialogue’?

Well, at least he didn’t say police “acted stupidly.” But President Obama’s call for “patient dialogue” in the aftermath of the premeditated, cold-blooded murder of NYPD Officers Wenjian Lu and Rafael Ramos is maddening.

Dialogue is an exchange that takes place when there are competing points of view and it is reasonable to believe that both of them may have a point.

Does the president really think there are two sides to this story?

In the absence of any proof of racial animus on the part of police – in fact, in the face of overwhelming proof that police take great personal risks to protect minority communities – Obama and his attorney general have joined the administration at the hip with notorious demagogue Al Sharpton. Together with like-minded radicals like New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, they promote a lethally dangerous smear that police lack human regard for the lives of black Americans.

This has not only divided our society – and Obama, like Sharpton, divides us out of the most shameful of political calculations. It has further signaled to a violent fringe Obama well knows is out there that savage acts against police and others are likely to be rationalized and tolerated – and, indeed, that violent acts short of murder will be ignored or sugar-coated as “peaceful protest.”

And now, two police officers have been murdered because they were sitting in their squad car wearing their uniforms – by a violent criminal who was clearly animated by the racially-charged, rabidly anti-police atmosphere Obama, Sharpton & Co. have promoted.

Before the murders happened, police were being assaulted on the streets of New York City, where the rabble felt free to chant, “What do we want? Dead cops! When do we want it? Now!” When the murders happened, some among the rabble engaged in the same kind of celebration that Islamists do when terrorists kill Americans or Israelis. And after the murders happened, others brayed that the killing of police would continue.

What it there to have “dialogue” about? What is the other side of this story that the president would have the widows and children of these two murdered officers hear? Or that he would have the police, who are now targets of the mob, understand?

Will: Sens. Marco Rubio and Rand Paul Are Both Right on Cuba

Republican Senators Marco Rubio and Rand Paul publicly sparred this week over the United States’ policy shift toward Cuba, and George Will says they are both correct.

“Marco Rubio is right that the president should have struck a better bargain to help the breathtakingly heroic democratic movement in Cuba, on the other hand he’s wrong to say this confers legitimacy,” Will said on Fox News Sunday. “Rand Paul is right that some kind of exposure of Cuba to the culture of America by both our popular culture and the culture of commerce is apt to be a solvent to the regime. However, Rand Paul does not seem to be—as many of us now are—sadder but wiser about the liberalizing effects of trade because we’ve tried this with China, we’ve tried this with Vietnam, and both have shown the compatibility of an open economy and a closed political system.”  

Rubio and Paul’s disagreements on foreign policy will likely reemerge as the 2016 presidential primary season approaches. 


Tags: Sunday Shows December 21 2014

Rogers: Intelligence Community Was Ready to Respond to North Korea Hack Attack, Didn’t Get Decision from Obama

Representative Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said the intelligence community is ready to respond to the attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment by hackers that had the support of North Korea. “Our intelligence services, the folks who would be responsible for at least the first wave of trying to make sure they don’t have the capability to do this again, were ready, they have the capability, they were ready to go,” Rogers said on Fox News Sunday. “The problem here was not the fact that we didn’t have the capability to do something nearly in immediate time, we just didn’t get a decision from the president of the United States.” 

Rogers continued to explain that the U.S. has the ability to make certain that North Korea does not carry out a similar attack any time soon, but would not detail how this would be done. Rogers said the way in which President Obama spoke out publicly about the attack diminished the United States’ ability to respond, but also declined to explain why the president’s actions hampered an American response. 


Tags: Sunday Shows December 21 2014

For the NYPD, It Doesn’t Stop in Brooklyn

The Post reports that a third NYPD officer was nearly killed by a gunman on Saturday:

A third cop narrowly escaped with his life Saturday night when a suspect pointed a gun directly at the officer’s head and pulled the trigger in The Bronx — not realizing it was empty.

Cops went to East 140th Street in Mott Haven at 9 p.m. on reports of a man shooting out windows with a.357 caliber revolver. They spotted the suspect, identified as Raymond Leonardo, 18, and ordered him to drop the gun. Instead, he took point blank aim at one of the officers, officials said.

When the gun didn’t work, he put it in his pocket and ran. Cops tackled him a few blocks away. “It looks like he used up all of his bullets’’ firing at the windows, a law-enforcement source said.

Note that, with their characteristic professionalism, the cops handled the deadly suspect with restraint, merely tackling him after he tried to shoot at them.

Meanwhile, police sources told the newspaper about the continuing threats they are getting, including tweets like this one, posted after the assassination-style murders of Officers Wenjian Lu and Rafael Ramos by Ismaaiyl Abdullah Brinsley“Kill em all i’m on the way to NY now #shootthepolice 2 more going down tomorrow.”

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The Horror in Brooklyn

The perpetrator alone bears responsibility for this evil act. We will learn more about him soon enough, but he was boasting of how he was going to kill police officers to avenge the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, which were, of course, widely and falsely portrayed as racist executions. Here is the New York Daily News on the killer’s self-professed motivation: 

Two NYPD cops were executed Saturday after a suspected gang member from Baltimore trekked to Brooklyn to kill police officers in a twisted bid to avenge the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, sources told the Daily News.

The shooter — identified as Ismaaiyl Brinsley— boasted about wanting to murder cops in the hours before he ambushed the officers outside the Tompkins Houses in Bedford-Stuyvesant around 2:45 p.m. — around the same time Baltimore officers sent a wanted flier to the NYPD. 

“I’m Putting Wings On Pigs Today. They Take 1 Of Ours…Let’s Take 2 of Theirs,” Brinsley, 28, wrote on Instagram alongside a photo of a silver handgun.

He also included the sick hashtags: #ShootThePolice #RIPErivGarner #RIPMike Brown.

“This May Be My Final Post…I’m Putting Pigs In A Blanket.”

If the anti-police protesters in New York who were braying for dead police officers meant what they said, they should be very pleased tonight. Here is video of their chant“What do we want? Dead cops! When do we want it? Now!”

Also, according to the Daily Beast, at least one eyewitness says that some people at the scene were cheering the assassinations:

But the scene outside Woodhull Hospital wasn’t entirely supportive. “You’re a bunch of killers,” a passerby told cops standing sentry there, according to one police source. And short distance from the crime scene — where a crowd was backed up by the police tape — a few members of the crowd repeated “f*** the cops” within earshot of a Daily Beast reporter.

One 30-year-old local who gave his first name only as Carlos, didn’t hear the fatal gunfire but saw the hysteria afterwards and walked to the police tape.

“A lot of people were clapping and laughing,” he said.

“Some were saying, ‘They deserved it,’ and another was shouting at the cops, ‘Serves them right because you mistreat people!’” he said.

We’ve heard a lot lately about tensions between the police and the communities they serve. But usually no one is willing to point out that a major source of that tension is an irrational animus toward the police, fueled by activists and commentators who lie about what they do.

‘Blood on His Hands’: Phalanx of NYPD Officers Turn Backs on de Blasio at Press Conference

A throng of NYPD officers at New York’s Woodhull Hospital turned their backs on Mayor Bill de Blasio as he arrived at a press conference on the execution-style murder of two New York cops, with police union president Pat Lynch claiming the mayor has “blood on [his] hands.”

The two officers were killed on Saturday as they sat in their patrol car by a Baltimore man, whose social media posts strongly suggest he traveled to New York to take revenge for the killings of Eric Garner and Michael Brown at the hands of police.

Many NYPD officers were angry at de Blasio even before the killings, accusing the mayor of inciting weeks of protests and maligning an entire police department after a Staten Island grand jury decided not to try the cop who killed Garner. 

While the police at Woodhull Hospital stuck to their silent protest against the mayor, Lynch explicitly placed culpability for the murders on de Blasio.

“There is blood on many hands tonight — those that incited violence on the streets under the guise of protest, that tried to tear down what New York police officers did every day,” the union president told the media Saturday night. “That blood on the hands starts on the steps of City Hall, in the office of the mayor.”

2 NYPD Cops Shot Dead — Execution Style — in Brooklyn

From the New York Post:

Two uniformed NYPD officers were shot dead — execution style — as they sat in their marked police car on a Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, street corner.

According to preliminary reports, both officers were working overtime as part of an anti-terrorism drill when they were shot point-blank by a single gunman who approached their car at the corner of Myrtle and Tompkins avenues.

“It’s an execution,” one law enforcement source told The Post of the 3 p.m. shooting.

The gunman just started “pumping bullets” into the patrol car, another source said.

The suspected gunman fled to a nearby subway station at Myrtle and Willoughby avenues, where he was fatally shot. Preliminary reports were unclear on whether he was shot by police or his own hand.

“They engaged the guy and he did himself,” one investigator said….

Is Christmas Possible?

I wrote a reflection on Christmas and epistemology which NRO published last year (and The American published the year before that). Since these issues are timeless and we’re just days away from the main event, I thought to share it.

I know something of what I’m talking about when I say that babies are pretty helpless. Think of Jesus that first Christmas night — he couldn’t see farther than a few feet, he didn’t know that he controlled his hands, he couldn’t hold his head up, he couldn’t feed himself. And yet the Christian church boldly claims that this little baby is the eternal being who has been worshipped and pondered and mythologized for centuries — the turning point of history, the necessary condition without which the universe, and all of us, would not exist.

That is some claim.

Could it be true? Could God have become man two thousand years ago on the first Christmas night?

Is Christmas possible?

You can read the rest here.

— Michael R. Strain is deputy director of economic policy studies and resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. You can follow him on Twitter at

Well, Whaddya Know


A New York City charter school offers a whopping $125,000 salary to staff its classrooms with top-tier teachers. A new study suggests the model has worked.

The study shows that students attending the Manhattan middle school, called The Equity Project, progressed more quickly than similar children attending traditional city schools, the Wall Street Journal reported. The contrast is stark—students’ test scores jumped the equivalent of an extra year and a half of schooling in math, with a half-year progression in both English and science…

The school skimps on administrative staff and maintains larger class sizes than city schools, 31 compared to an average of roughly 27 students, in order to afford lofty teacher salaries. The $125,000 salary nearly doubles the average of city school districts, and the school’s highest-paid teacher took in almost $140,000 with bonuses last year, the Journal said.

Krauthammer: Liberalization Hasn’t Worked in Vietnam or China, Won’t Work in Cuba

Economic liberalization has not changed the politics of Vietnam or China, and it’s not going to change much in Cuba, either, says Charles Krauthammer.

“In the early days of the Cold War, the very early days, there was a semi-tongue-in-cheek proposal that, instead of having bombs on the B-52s, we ought to fill them with nylons and drop them over the Soviet Union. As a result, there will be a revolution, they’re going to become capitalists.”

“This is exactly the same idea for Cuba,” he continued. “It hasn’t worked for Vietnam or China, if your objective is to liberalize it. And the bulk of the benefit is going to go to the military and the repressive apparatus. That’s the argument against normalization.”

The NRLB Gave Unions a Huge Boost Today . . . But It’s Not Likely to Last

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) just charged several dozen McDonalds franchises with unfair labor practices. In an unusual move, the NLRB also charged McDonalds Corp. as a co-defendant with its franchisees. As I wrote in August, these charges are part of a larger push by unions to curtail the franchise business model.

Small-business owners run most fast-food restaurants in the United States. They often purchase the rights to use a brand name — such as McDonalds — in exchange for agreeing to meet price and service standards. The franchisees, however, run the rest of the business as they choose. They choose whom to hire, what to have them do, and how much to pay them. Federal labor law has long recognized franchisees as the sole employer of their employees.

Unions want to change that. They want to make the corporate brand the “joint employer” of franchisees’ employees, despite having no control over their employment. Why? In short, unions prefer trying to organize a handful of big businesses to trying to organize thousands of small ones. (For more information, read the earlier article.)

Unions now find it easier to pressure businesses to accept unionization than to persuade workers to accept their services. As Joe Crump, former Secretary-Treasurer of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 951, put it:

Who do we really need to convince of the advantages of being union? Employees or employers? . . . Employees are complex and unpredictable. Employers are simple and predictable. We [unions] can use these conclusions to our advantage in a pressure [unionizing] campaign.

Unfortunately for unions, the franchise model has created tens of thousands of small businesses across the country. They present a much more difficult target than a handful of large firms. So unions want to effectively do away with franchising. By making McDonalds Corp. a joint-employer, they can try to pressure it into foisting “card check” (i.e., no secret-ballot vote) on its franchisees.

Of course if McDonalds Corp. faces liability as an employer, then it has to control employment decisions. It can’t expose itself to lawsuits for activities outside its control. If the NLRB’s “joint-employer” theory stands, it would cripple the franchise business model.

Fortunately, it probably won’t stand. The law expressly allows franchising. Earlier this year the NLRB general counsel admitted “we have a problem legally for our theory.” Sadly, that did not stop him from filing charges.

— James Sherk is the senior policy analyst in labor economics at the Heritage Foundation’s Center for Data Analysis.

If We Put North Korea Back on List of State Sponsors of Terrorism, Why Not China?

The Obama administration is apparently considering putting North Korea back on the list of state sponsors of terrorism, in response to its attack on Sony Pictures’ computer system and threats against movie theaters showing the now-canceled film The Interview. The truth is, it never should have been taken off the list in the first place. The Bush administration in 2008 removed the designation in a foolhardy attempt to keep alive its diplomatic negotiations with Pyongyang. Compounding the mistake, Obama kept it off the list, despite North Korean aggression like the sinking of a South Korean naval vessel in 2010, its breaking of the 2012 “Leap Day Agreement,” a third nuclear test in 2013, and other destabilizing actions.

Putting North Korea back on the list won’t change anything much, but it will at a minimum be a moment of moral clarity. Rewarding North Korea for transient adherence to diplomatic agreements it had already broken, and when the nature of the regime had in no way changed, showed intellectual confusion and moral weakness on the part of the U.S. government. It sent the clearest of signals that Pyongyang did not have to alter its behavior in any meaningful way; it even encouraged more aggression, such the incidents listed above, and probably led the Kim regime to think they were winning their struggle against Washington. Since Washington has so far failed in its goal of denuclearizing the North and modifying the regime’s actions, Pyongyang isn’t wrong.

What happens if/when the Obama administration puts the country back in the diplomatic doghouse? Being designated a state sponsor of terrorism triggers four different type of sanctions, according to the State Department: restrictions on U.S. foreign assistance; a ban on defense exports and sales; certain controls over exports of dual-use items; and miscellaneous financial and other restrictions. The last is the one that would have any real impact, as it did in the mid 2000s, before the Bush administration surrendered that leverage, as well, in the hopes of getting North Korea to negotiate. Being largely a mafia-regime running a country, cutting off access to the world’s financial system seems to be the only thing that really hurts the Kim thugocracy. 

There is another twist to this story, though, that has more complex implications. If Washington does re-label North Korea a state sponsor of terrorism, what about China? After all, U.S. officials at the least intimated that North Korea uses Chinese networks and firewalls to launch cyberattacks, including possibly the one against Sony. At a minimum, that makes Beijing an abettor, since it cannot believably feign ignorance about Pyongyang’s cyber activities. But Beijing may be more than an ignorant bystander; it may be an accomplice to North Korea’s cyberterrorism, actively helping it, given the complexities of this attack, as noted by U.S. officials. 

Intellectual consistency and moral clarity would require the United States to designate China a state sponsor of terrorism. That will never happen, of course. And since it will not happen, North Korea and other cyberterrorists will likely always find a haven and a supporter in China, itself the greatest cyber criminal of all. 

The bottom line is: Expect more attacks. Now that two of America’s largest entertainment corporations have caved into threats or the fear of threats and self-censored themselves, the template is set for more destruction of intellectual and private electronic property, the sowing of greater fear for personal safety, and the exposure of the inability of American businesses to protect themselves from the dark spots of the cyber world, many of which originate in the world’s most aggressive and anti-liberal regimes: China, North Korea, and Russia. 

Does Rand Paul’s Trolling Marco Rubio Make Any Political Sense?

Andrew, about that senatorial Twitter melee:

I am willing to entertain the possibility that Rand Paul supports rolling back the Cuban embargo as a matter of principle — “peace through commerce,” etc., as he wrote — and that his conscience demanded that he publicly plant his flag. But as a matter of politics for an all-but-declared 2016 GOP presidential candidate, his zeal in confronting Rubio is surprising.

In 1997, Gallup found that the country was evenly split on the question, “Do you favor or oppose re-establishing U.S. diplomatic relations with Cuba?” In 2009, when Gallup last posed the question, 60 percent of Americans favored normalizing relations, and 30 percent opposed. According to the Atlantic Council and the New York Times, which both conducted polls this year, those numbers have held steady, and the Atlantic Council found that those numbers were no different among Hispanics or Floridians generally.

All of that would seem to favor Paul — except for the fact that effectively no one is going to select a candidate based on their position on the Cuban embargo. (Which is not to say that it will not be employed as an indicator of a general inclination toward or against foreign policy hawkishness — but even on that score there are much better pointers: policy toward the Islamic State, Iran, China, Russia, etc., to name only a few).

However, at least some voters may be inclined to change their vote based on the embargo: namely, Cuban Americans. They are not of one mind on the subject: A Florida International University poll of Cuban Americans in Miami found that 52 percent of all respondents oppose continuing the embargo, with a similar split among registered voters. That is a significant drop in support (30+ points) from two decades ago. But it is not necessarily a swing of opinion, as much as a fade. Older Cuban-American voters, many of them first-generation refugees, are staunchly in support of the embargo; younger Cuban Americans, removed by a generation (or more) from life in Cuba, are less likely to support it — and also more likely to just not care. In a recent poll of Cuban-American voters by Latino Decisions, one-third said the issue is “very important.” They are much more likely to be supporters.

And that matters a whole lot in the key swing state of Florida (electoral votes up for grabs: 29). Mitt Romney lost the state by less than 75,000 votes in 2012, and won Cuban Americans, according to a survey by Bendixen & Amandi International, just 52–48 — down from 2008. Considering that there are more than enough Cubans (125,000) in Miami-Dade County alone to make up Romney’s losing margin, and more than 1.2 million in the state, move the needle just a few ticks rightward, and a Republican presidential nominee could take Florida.

Why alienate those potential voters from the get-go?

And that’s to say nothing of a primary battle. There is a range of opinion on the embargo within the Republican party, but certainly no one is inclined to think the U.S. should simply hug it out with the Castro brothers, which seems to be President Obama’s plan, given that he is normalizing relations without requiring anything substantive in the way of political or human-rights reforms in return. Perhaps Paul would make these demands, but his statement suggests that the embargo deserves to go solely on account of its ineffectiveness — a fact that, itself, is debatable.

And, finally, there is the way that this was done: a poke-in-the-ribs, quasi-trolling outburst aimed at a party colleague over social media — one whose connections to this issue, furthermore, are deeply personal. Yes, Rubio said Paul “has no idea what he’s talking about” when it comes to Cuba.

But this did not do much to prove him wrong.


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