Michéle Flournoy, the leading candidate to replace Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense, has bowed out:

Flournoy, the co-founder and CEO of the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), a think tank that has served as a farm league for future Obama administration officials, would have been the first female secretary of defense had she risen to the position. The news of her decision to withdraw was first reported by Foreign Policy. But in a letter Tuesday to members of the CNAS board of directors, Flournoy said she would remain in her post at the think tank and asked Obama to take her out of consideration to be the next secretary of defense. Flournoy told the board members that family health considerations helped drive her decision and the fact that two of her children are leaving for college in the next two years.

“Last night I spoke with President Obama and removed myself from consideration due to family concerns,” reads the letter, first obtained by FP. “After much agonizing, we decided that now was not the right time for me to reenter government.”

Senator Jack Reed, another contender, has also said he has no interest in a new job. Austin Wright and Michael Hirsh aren’t surprised that nobody seems to want to run the Pentagon these days:

Read On

Illiberalism In The Art World, Ctd

Nov 26 2014 @ 2:14pm

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A reader senses a double standard:

Reading your excerpt of Jerry Saltz’s piece and reflecting on your recent writing on the stifling of debate with cries of racism, sexism, etc., I’m struck by a thought. You say there’s a certain amount of homophobia gays must learn to tolerate because the alternative (i.e., silencing those with politically incorrect views) is even worse. Ditto sexism, ditto (presumably) racism and anti-semitism. Homos, blacks, Jews, women: Toughen up. People will say things that hurt your feelings, but too bad. The world cares not. Free speech is more important than your bruised emotions.

And yet. Saltz seems quite to have had his feelings hurt by being called a racist, a perv, a hater of women. Should he not toughen up as well? It would appear to me there is a quite a debate going on – about whether Saltz’s views are out of bounds. Is that not a debate worth having as well? And if it is, then Saltz and his hurt feelings can get in line with all the gays who are tired of homophobia, all the black folks who are tired of racism, all the women who are tired of catcalling, and just realize that the debate is more important.

Yes, I think the targets of the left’s various public shamings – shamings now put on rhetorical growth hormone by the Twitter and Facebook mobs – should take it on the chin, unless their very existence as a writer is under threat. I’m fine with my being hauled out and shamed, even by Dish readers – but that’s because I have real freedom here to write what I think and take whatever lumps come my way. That’s the beauty of an independent site and the free speech zone here at the Dish. I am not directly threatened by these new puritans in the discourse. But so many others are – in academia, especially, but also in journalism. And when the point of the shaming is to shut down a person’s job or livelihood, to stigmatize so as to punish views that are violations of left-wing church doctrine, then I think the victims have every right to point out the threat to free discourse. That’s different than whining about having one’s feelings hurt.

Because the real troubling part of Saltz’s piece was the pressure to have him fired:

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Reflecting on the Michael Brown case, Friedersdorf insists that, “when it comes to the problem of police officers using excessive force, including lethal force, against people they encounter, there are scores of cases that better illustrate the problem”:

[E]ven protesters who want to highlight the specific problem of white police officers shooting black men—even those who want to do so by saying “don’t shoot” while raising their arms in the air—needn’t rely on a murky incident with conflicting eyewitness testimony where there’s a chance that the unknowable truth would exonerate the officer. Instead, they can show skeptics this video from Columbia, South Carolina:

When I want to persuade a skeptic that police can misbehave so badly that it’s hard to believe until one sees it, that is the incident I thrust before them. Given an hour of their time, I could fill it with other incidents on YouTube, almost all of which were totally ignored by most of the commentators who are now flaunting their outrage at anyone evaluating evidence in Ferguson differently than they do. This alienates potential allies and converts on the larger issue of police abuse … for what?

Some of the reforms Conor advocates for:

Read On

A new report from the human rights group, Reprieve, has some truly disturbing statistics:

Some 24 men specifically targeted in Pakistan resulted in the death of 874 people. All were reported in the press as “killed” on multiple occasions, meaning that numerous strikes were aimed at each of them. The vast majority of those strikes were unsuccessful. An estimated 142 children were killed in the course of pursuing those 24 men, only six of whom died in the course of drone strikes that killed their intended targets. In Yemen, 17 named men were targeted multiple times. Strikes on them killed 273 people, at least seven of them children. At least four of the targets are still alive.

Available data for the 41 men targeted for drone strikes across both countries indicate that each of them was reported killed multiple times. Seven of them are believed to still be alive. The status of another, Haji Omar, is unknown. Abu Ubaidah al-Masri, whom drones targeted three times, later died from natural causes, believed to be hepatitis.

The data here are deduced from public news accounts of the various strikes, their successes and their collateral damage. I can’t verify all the details. But if they are even close to being accurate, they decisively shift the moral equation behind drone strikes as a least worst option for killing terrorists. What we need is more data from the Pentagon, the CIA and JSOC to have a better idea of what is actually happening if we are able, as an informed public, to judge the effectiveness and basic morality of this war. Quite simply, we need to know how many innocents we are killing in the attempt to neutralize terror. And whether this war is actually – through these massacres of civilians – making things even worse.

The View From Your Window

Nov 26 2014 @ 1:10pm

Madinat Zayed-UAE-1022am

Madinat Zayed, United Arab Emirates, 10.22 am

What To Make Of Ferguson? Ctd

Nov 26 2014 @ 12:44pm

Some remaining thoughts from readers regarding the grand jury decision and aftermath:

Your correspondent compared Ferguson to Benghazi:

There’s a narrative of racist-white-cop-kills-harmless-black-kid, and no matter what uncomfortable fact intrudes, like that so many “witnesses” admitted they didn’t actually see what they told the media they saw, the narrative must go on. Because racism.

You know, s/he’s not entirely wrong. But even if Micheal Brown had been holding an AR-15 in each hand when he was shot, everything that we’ve been talking about in the aftermath of his death about the systemic corruption, violence, impunity – and yes, institutional racism – of policing and incarceration in this country would still be true. The ugly, simple truth is that very few people will rally against injustice in the abstract, regardless of the scale. We just aren’t wired for that kind of empathy. (Stalin was right about tragedies and statistics.) So is it a mistake to try to leverage a particular case to bring the bigger issues to the fore? It certainly is risky, and I think we are seeing why right now. But if there is a better way to go about it, I don’t think we’ve seen it yet.

Another would seem to concur:

I agree with your take on Ferguson. If your objective is to make an example of how police Protesters block interstate lanes in Oakland after Ferguson Grand Jury decisioninteract with young men of color, this isn’t a perfect case. It’s just attracted the most attention. And the response is making it worse. But this is where we are, with the incompetence and violence and rioting and everything. And every day that sees a riot, we get a little bit closer to forgetting Michael Brown.

Taking in the non-indictment and aftermath of the Brown tragedy, I think I understand a little bit more about your perspective on Matthew Shepard. One thing you can’t say about Shepard is that his life was wasted. He just wasn’t the person who took advantage of it. His parents and advocates of gay rights and hate crimes legislation – good or bad – made sure his name would ring out after he died. They took an imperfect case and made it count.

I want to remember Michael Brown as the namesake of laws around the country that require all police to wear body cameras. “Michael’s Law” has a nice ring to it.

Another goes after his fellow left-liberals:

When I listen to the commentary on the left, I can’t help hearing benevolent racism.

Read On

One Thing I’m Thankful For

Nov 26 2014 @ 12:28pm

I woke up this morning to the following headline:

Mississippi

It will be appealed. But did I ever think I’d read that headline in my lifetime?

I love this country because, for all its deep divisions and constant insanity, it moves forward, and not by sudden elite fiats, as in Western Europe, but by the long and winding road of debate, lawsuits, legislative action, court action and presidential nudging. This struggle isn’t over – and the debate should never be over – but what a long way we’ve come. Mississippi.

Quote For The Day

Nov 26 2014 @ 12:12pm

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“The GOP has withheld cooperation from every major element of President Obama’s agenda, beginning with the stimulus, through health-care reform, financial regulation, the environment, long-term debt reduction, and so on. That stance has worked extremely well as a political strategy. Most people pay little attention to politics and tend to hold the president responsible for outcomes. If Republicans turn every issue into an intractable partisan scrum, people get frustrated with the status quo and take out their frustration on the president’s party. It’s a formula, but it works.

The formula only fails to work if the president happens to have an easy and legal way to act on the issue in question without Congress. Obama can’t do that on infrastructure, or the grand bargain, and he couldn’t do it on health care. But he could do it on immigration. So Republicans were stuck carrying out a strategy whose endgame would normally be “bill fails, public blames Obama” that instead wound up “Obama acts unilaterally, claims credit, forces Republicans to take poisonous stance in opposition.” They had grown so accustomed to holding all the legislative leverage, they couldn’t adapt to a circumstance where they had none,” – Jon Chait, cutting through the chatter as usual.

I still don’t like the executive action here – in an area appropriate for legislation. But as politics, it seems to me more successful than I expected. What Obama has done – rightly or wrongly – is break out of the zone he’s been placed in since 2010. The absolute obstructionism of the House GOP against anything the president might want to do could have rendered him utterly side-lined in his last two, critical years. In fact, that was their smug expectation. Instead the pressure has been ju-jitsued right back on them. The failure of the GOP to respond except in a succession of splutters and outrage has revealed one core reason for gridlock: the deep divide within the GOP that is now, on a critical issue like immigration, threatening to throw their future into doubt. I don’t know where this dynamic will take us. But it sure is more interesting than watching another two years of Congressional deadlock.

Meep meep?

(Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty.)

What Is A Grand Jury For?

Nov 26 2014 @ 11:51am

Toobin blasts McCulloch for misusing the grand jury:

[T]he goal of criminal law is to be fair—to treat similarly situated people similarly—as well as to reach just results. McCulloch gave Wilson’s case special treatment. He turned it over to the grand jury, a rarity itself, and then used the investigation as a document dump, an approach that is virtually without precedent in the law of Missouri or anywhere else. Buried underneath every scrap of evidence McCulloch could find, the grand jury threw up its hands and said that a crime could not be proved. This is the opposite of the customary ham-sandwich approach, in which the jurors are explicitly steered to the prosecutor’s preferred conclusion. Some might suggest that all cases should be treated the way McCulloch handled Wilson before the grand jury, with a full-fledged mini-trial of all the incriminating and exculpatory evidence presented at this preliminary stage. Of course, the cost of such an approach, in both time and money, would be prohibitive, and there is no guarantee that the ultimate resolutions of most cases would be any more just. In any event, reserving this kind of special treatment for white police officers charged with killing black suspects cannot be an appropriate resolution.

Noam Scheiber is on the same page:

Politically, I understand the advantage of this for McCulloch. He gets to wrap his preference for not indicting Wilson in the legitimacy of a trial-like process, whereas simply declining to indict Wilson without the support of a grand jury would have left him badly exposed. It would have triggered an enormous political backlash, rather than the relatively minor uproar we witnessed Monday night. But as a basic matter of justice, it’s outrageous. As I noted yesterday, the only way to earn the legitimacy of a trial is to actually have a trial, in which both positions are given a fair hearing.

Allahpundit asks, “What should McCulloch have done instead?”:

Read On

Your Wednesday Cry

Nov 26 2014 @ 11:24am

This little critter – with a broken back – was found on a beach in Thailand, malnourished and covered in ticks:

And you’ll never guess what happens next (as they say) …