Monthly Archives: June 2012

The Cinch Review

“Endangered” heritage sites: Timbuktu and Bethlehem

UNESCO has named some new “endangered heritage” sites. The designation is intended to highlight and protect sites of great historical significance which are perceived as being threatened with destruction.

One such newly designated site is Timbuktu, in Mali, which includes many ancient shrines to saints of the Sufi strain of Islam. It has indeed been under threat by al-Qaeda-linked Islamists who reject that form of Islam, and who regard the shrines as idolatrous. In response (apparently) to the designation by UNESCO, dozens of these Islamists have arrived in Timbuktu in trucks, armed with AK-47s and pick-axes, and are systematically setting to work to destroy every single saintly mausoleum in the place. One must guess that no one from UNESCO even had time to put up a solitary poster with the “Endangered Heritage Site” designation. (I very much doubt there is anyone from UNESCO within hundreds of miles of Timbuktu right now.)

Destroying such ancient holy sites is a crime against decency and a crime against human culture, without question, but it hasn’t stopped Islamists before. Remember the Buddhist statues that the Taliban dynamited in Afghanistan in 2001. And then stop and consider what the future may hold for Egyptian antiquities, if Islamism achieves complete control in that country.

Meanwhile, UNESCO has also designated Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity as an endangered heritage site. Why, in this case? The churches who share control of the shrine—Roman Catholic, Armenian and Greek Orthodox—did not request the designation. Bethlehem is in the West Bank, and it was Palestinian officials who petitioned UNESCO for the “endangered” label, and asked for it to be “fast-tracked.” UNESCO quickly obliged. The granting of the “endangered” designation is being celebrated by Palestinians as a slap to the Israeli government, which asserts sovereignty over the area. Continue reading “Endangered” heritage sites: Timbuktu and Bethlehem

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“ObamaCare is a tax, not a penalty”: post-mortems

Yesterday yours truly, like approximately 1.2 billion others, reacted within just a few minutes to the Supreme Court ruling on the “Affordable Care Act.” Today I see no particular reason to either correct or to expand on what I wrote then about why the ruling is wrong, but I do see that there have been smart people out there ably gilding the lily that was here planted.

Andrew McCarthy (who has a background as a federal prosecutor) writes: ObamaCare Ruling: Pure Fraud and No Due Process. His excellent column includes the following statement of fact:

[T]oday, the Supreme Court rewrote a law – which it has no constitutional authority to do – and treated it as if it were forthrightly, legitimately enacted. Further, it shielded the political branches from accountability for raising taxes, knowing full well that, had Obama and the Democrats leveled with the public that ObamaCare entailed a huge tax hike, it would never have had the votes to pass.

But leave it to Mark Steyn to write the ultimate summation of the entire lurid and horrific mess that this has become, in his column today in the OC Register. Read it all (which won’t be difficult). It’s an out-and-out classic.

Yet, would that there were no need to write a “classic” in response to yesterday’s ruling. Would that instead the deciding opinion had itself been a classic.

Maybe it is a classic, of some sort—that sort being the wrong sort.

While I vociferously disagree with his ruling, I have not sped ahead to hating or despising John Roberts personally as a result of it. I think he made a mistake. We all make mistakes; most of our mistakes, thanks be to God, don’t bring with them the kinds of consequences that accompany a mistake by a Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. If the ruling is a classic example of anything maybe it is that of a Chief Justice letting confusion and anxiety about his role as “chief” unduly affect his understanding and judgment with regard to the law. He saw that he was in a pivotal position in this case, and, as Chief Justice, that he had the power to write the deciding opinion. He distorted his usually clear-eyed view in the name of striking what he saw as some kind of grand, all-balancing compromise. Ditch the Commerce Clause through which statists seek absolute power, but let the law stand anyway through some sleight-of-hand as an ill-defined extension of the taxing power. He figured, perhaps, that it was the kind of thing that would make George Will happy; in this, at least, he was absolutely correct. Continue reading “ObamaCare is a tax, not a penalty”: post-mortems

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O Little Town of Vladimir

Russian President Vladimir Putin has confessed himself “at a loss” after finding out, during a two-day visit to the Middle East, that a street in Bethlehem was being renamed in his honor.

Mahmoud Abbas, the head of what’s known as the Palestinian Authority, told Putin today that the mayor of Bethlehem had apparently been seized by inspiration to rename a street in that same town of Bethlehem (the birthplace of Jesus Christ) after the Russian leader, who is well-known these days for having severely contracted whatever democratic freedoms had managed to sprout in post-Soviet Russia. Continue reading O Little Town of Vladimir

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Egyptian liberals tell U.S. to butt out with all this democracy stuff

It’s an irony wrapped up in … an even bigger irony. A block of liberal political parties in Egypt issued a “strongly worded statement” on Saturday telling the U.S. to stop putting pressure on Egypt’s military to hand over power to the Muslim Brotherhood’s presidential candidate Mohammed Morsi (who is widely believed to have won a majority of the vote). Implicitly, they would prefer that the old-guard Mubarak-era candidate, Ahmed Shafiq, take control. Continue reading Egyptian liberals tell U.S. to butt out with all this democracy stuff

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Shlomi Shaban: Mama, You Been on My Mind

This is something a little different. A pianist and singer named Shlomi Shaban sings Bob Dylan’s “Mama, You Been on My Mind;” but in Hebrew, and accompanied by the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra. Below via YouTube:

The rendition does lift up just how beautiful a melody it is. Not bad at all, for the 23-year-old folk singer who wrote it back in 1964 (and who didn’t even release it until 1991!).

When you wake up in the mornin’, baby, look inside your mirror
You know I won’t be next to you, you know I won’t be near
I’d just be curious to know if you can see yourself as clear
As someone who has had you on his mind

From The Bootleg Series, Vols. 1-3 : Rare And Unreleased, 1961-1991


The Cinch Review

The Image of Forced Abortion that has Shaken China

It was an image circulated via Twitter and other on-line resources which set off the recent backlash in China against the practice of forced abortion.

Forced abortion in China

(Via the Daily Caller.)

The mother had been seven months pregnant when she was physically dragged to a hospital and injected with a toxic substance to kill the baby inside her womb. The couple already had one child, and could not come up with the necessary cash to pay a “fine” which would have permitted them to have one more, under China’s one-child policy. Continue reading The Image of Forced Abortion that has Shaken China

The Cinch Review

Suspensions and apology follow forced abortion in China

Following up on a previous post (“Forced abortion: A tipping point in China?”): Authorities in China have taken steps designed to defuse public outrage after a widely publicized case of forced abortion. The fact of forced abortion (and forced sterilization) is nothing new in China, where a “one-child policy” has been enforced for decades, but what was different in this case was the rapid circulation via the Internet and Twitter of this particular story, accompanied by a photograph of the devastated woman (who had been beaten in advance of the “procedure”) with the bloodied corpse of her nearly full-term child beside her in the hospital. The woman and her husband already had one child, and were unable to come up with a “fine” of 40,000 yuan (roughtly $6,300) which would have “allowed” them to give birth to a second. Continue reading Suspensions and apology follow forced abortion in China

The Cinch Review

Why do reporters even show up for Rose Garden statements?

Today, Neil Munro of the Daily Caller caused some kind of massive kerfuffle by merely asking the President of the United States a pointed question as he delivered his statement in the White House Rose Garden regarding illegal immigrants.

Presidents have steadily become more and more controlling of their public statements and media face-time, but certainly President Obama has set new precedents for being inaccessible. He frequently uses the “bully pulpit” of the White House to deliver televised statements like today’s while refusing to answer questions from the assembled press (on the off-chance any are asked). Neil Munro threw a wrench in the president’s style today, prompting him to lose his temper and so mess up the presentation. Now, a reporter who asked a question is being labeled by much of the rest of the media as a “heckler.” Continue reading Why do reporters even show up for Rose Garden statements?

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Forced abortion: A tipping point in China?

Via CNN:

On Sina Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter, the case was among the top trending topics Thursday afternoon, attracting almost a million comments.

Most users appear to side with the couple and condemn the officials. “Bring the murderers to justice” was a commonly posted demand.

It is a case of forced abortion—out of the millions that have taken place—which seems to have struck a deep chord with many people in China. The Chinese authorities have actually issued an apology in this case, in which a woman who was seven months pregnant had her baby ripped out of her womb and killed solely on the grounds that she and her husband could not come up with the requisite “fine” in order to legally have the baby.

The story is apparently receiving an unprecedented level of attention in China, and I do not think that its potential resonance should be underestimated.

The Chinese have many reasons to be unhappy with their elitist rulers, but inertia has always outweighed the momentum of change. This particular issue has a visceral power beyond all others.

“I wish this case could be the turning point in China’s family planning policy, to comfort the spirit of this child in heaven,” wrote Zheng Haitao, a financial magazine editor.

He Yafu, an independent demographer, said any hope of change must await the party leadership transition this fall and a new Cabinet next spring. He advocates abolition of the policy and says doing so would have minimal effect on China’s birthrate. A major obstacle is that authorities have come to rely on the fines they can levy, He said.

Ignoring threats warning him not to get involved, lawyer Zhang Kai said he was traveling to Shaanxi to assist the couple.

“I think governments shouldn’t ‘plan’ family planning, it’s the citizen’s right,” Zhang said. “God won’t allow humans to do forced abortions, and he’s unhappy to see it.”

The Cinch Review

Lee Greenwood, Justin Bieber, and a Matter of Taste

The story of how the principal of PS 90 in Brooklyn, Greta Hawkins, banned the five year-olds from singing “God Bless the USA” by Lee Greenwood at their kindergarten “graduation ceremony” has generated the kind of blowing back and forth that is typical of such incidents, and naturally everyone has a right to an opinion.

According to the NY Post, five classes spent months learning the song. The principal reportedly nixed it so as “not to offend other cultures.” Yet, the nicest thing I read in connection with this whole story—doubtless the only nice thing—is what’s conveyed in this snippet: Continue reading Lee Greenwood, Justin Bieber, and a Matter of Taste