Category Archives: Losing Freedom

Liberty and Law: Not self-protecting or self-perpetuating.

June 12, 2014 7:20 p.m. ET

From a talk by former Sen. Joseph Lieberman at an Aspen Institute-sponsored conference in Prague, June 10:

The relative peace, prosperity, tolerance and security achieved from Lisbon to Tallinn is by any historical measure not the natural state of the European continent. On the contrary, this has been a part of the world that has proven unusually prone to conflict—which is perhaps not surprising, given how diverse its people are and how fragmented political power historically has been. To the extent that Europe has moved in the direction of being whole, free and at peace, it is not the preordained result of some dialectic of history or irreversible evolution of Europeans toward a higher plane of geopolitical existence, but because of a remarkable combination of events, heroic and idealistic leaders like Havel, Walesa and Gorbachev, popular support for change, and moral and tangible backing from the United States and other Western nations.

That is exactly what the people of Ukraine need now. Today the bell tolls for Ukraine but it also tolls for the rest of Europe and the United States. The political order we have built over the last 70 years—first by defeating fascism in World War II and then by collapsing Communism in the Cold War—is under genuine threat.

The values of liberty and law are at the heart of the Euro-Atlantic Alliance, but values alone are not self-protecting or self-perpetuating. Political will and military strength are as necessary in Europe as anywhere else. There is no European exception to this truth that history teaches.

Notable & Quotable – WSJ.

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A Power Struggle Gets Ugly at Kansas State

If its not about money, then what? And why aren’t other ‘institutions of higher learning’ speaking up?
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Leticia Romero Just Wants to Transfer, but It Isn’t So Easy
5/20/2014 WSJ

With the NCAA under legal attack, now facing increased pressure to allow its student-athletes a broader set of rights, critics of its policies are focusing on a new case that, they say, illustrates how little power college athletes have in controlling their own destinies.

In March, Spanish-born basketball player Leticia Romero finished her freshman season at Kansas State as the Wildcats’ leader in points, assists and rebounds. But after an 11-19 season, the school fired the team’s coaching staff and Romero decided to transfer, preferring to take her three years of remaining college eligibility elsewhere.

Transferring is a common practice in college sports, especially when a coach is fired or takes another job. More than 400 men’s basketball players have decided to transfer since the regular season ended in March, according to ESPN, and the NCAA says about 40% of Division-I men’s basketball players leave the schools where they initially signed by the end of their sophomore years.

But when Romero notified Kansas State of her desire to transfer, the school denied her request, refusing to release her from her scholarship. The decision was upheld by a university appeals committee in April.

Now her options are limited. Romero, an 18-year-old from Las Palmas, Spain, in the U.S. on an international student’s visa, says she can’t afford to pay for college without an athletic scholarship, but she can’t accept a scholarship from another school next year without Kansas State’s release. She is not currently listed on Kansas State’s roster and says she has no intention of playing for the Wildcats next year.

“We don’t have the same rights as the coaches,” Romero said in an interview Monday. “It’s not fair.”

NCAA rules say that Kansas State can release Romero from her scholarship while still preventing her from transferring to certain schools. When she decided to transfer, Romero says, she gave the school’s compliance office a list of about 100 schools with high-level basketball teams she was interested in contacting. Last week, she was surprised to learn that Kansas State had in fact granted some schools permission to contact her—but none from her initial list.

School officials have declined to discuss their reasons for denying Romero’s request, citing federal privacy laws, and Romero says the school hasn’t told her why it has impeded her transfer.

“I have no idea,” she said. “That’s the thing that’s frustrating me most.”

In the Kansas State student-athlete handbook, the university reserves the right to not grant a release “except for the most compelling of circumstances which place an undue burden on the student athlete.” Kansas State athletic director John Currie said in a series of April 22 tweets that he was prevented from discussing individual student issues but added: “Generally speaking, on RARE occasions that we have denied a student-athlete transfer release, it has been because of concerns about outside tampering, undue influence by third parties or procedures not being followed in an honest and forthright manner.”

Kansas State declined to comment further Monday through a school spokesman.

On Monday, Romero’s attorney, Donald Jackson, contacted Kansas State president Kirk Schulz and urged him to reconsider the decision, writing that she wouldn’t “accept anything less than a full release…that will allow her to transfer to the school of her choice.”

“What they’re doing goes against every principle of college athletics and higher education,” said Jackson.

Schulz, a member of the NCAA’s board of directors, is also part of an NCAA committee tasked with reforming the embattled organization. Schulz said at a news conference last month that the committee’s goal was to improve the experience of college athletes. Schulz didn’t respond to a request for comment through a school spokesman Monday.

Some of the NCAA’s most vocal critics have called attention to Romero’s case. ESPN analyst Jay Bilas has used his platform on Twitter, where he has more than 689,000 followers, to demand that Kansas State reconsider its decision. “I think they’ve made a huge mistake,” Bilas said in an interview Monday. “It’s needless, and it’s wrong.”

To some observers, Romero’s case has appeared as another crack in the NCAA’s once-impervious facade, an example of the limits placed on the rights of college athletes. One such athlete, former UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannon, filed an antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA in 2009 alleging that the association conspired with its broadcasting partners to fix the price of a college athlete’s name and likeness at zero. The NCAA says it doesn’t attempt to profit from athletes’ likenesses. That case is scheduled for a June 9 trial.

The issue of greater athlete self-determination has been at the forefront of college sports since March, when a regional director of the National Labor Relations Board gave Northwestern’s scholarship football players the right to unionize, ruling that the players were employees first and students second. The school appealed the decision to the national NLRB, and the outcome of the players’ vote on April 25 remains sealed until the NLRB’s decision.

As a public university, Kansas State is exempt from federal labor laws, meaning its athletes wouldn’t be eligible to unionize like Northwestern’s football players. But Romero said she believes that fairer rules and better organization would help college athletes to navigate the transfer and appeal processes.

Romero remains hopeful that Kansas State will reconsider its decision and give her permission to transfer to a school on her initial list. She still hasn’t decided her future plans.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty, and I want this to end,” she said. “But I really don’t know what do next.”

A Power Struggle Gets Ugly at Kansas State – WSJ.com.

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Prayer in the Public Square

God hangs on by a vote at the Supreme Court.
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May 5, 2014 7:13 p.m. ET

The Supreme Court did a good turn for religious freedom on Monday, ruling that prayer is permitted at government meetings and doesn’t amount to an endorsement of religion. The disconcerting surprise is that the decision was only 5-4.

Greece v. Galloway dealt with a challenge to the town of Greece, New York’s practice of opening its council meetings with a prayer. This being America in the Year of Our Lord 2014, two women sued, claiming to be offended because the clergy invited to read an invocation were predominantly Christian. The High Court ruled that such a legislative prayer is part of American tradition going back to the Founders and doesn’t favor one religion over another.

Opinion Video

Editorial Page Editor Paul Gigot on the Supreme Court’s ruling that Christian prayers before public meetings do not violate the Constitution. Photo: Getty Images

The High Court had upheld legislative prayer as recently as 1983 in Marsh v. Chambers, so this case was really about whether the Justices were going to restrict that precedent and further limit God in the public square. That’s precisely what the four liberal Justices would have done, led by Elena Kagan, who argued in her dissent that even allowing a rabbi or cleric to make a sectarian reference is divisive and constitutes a state endorsement of that religion. Joined by the three other liberals, she said any prayer must be generic and entirely nonsectarian.

Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy carefully explained the long history of legislative prayer. “That the First Congress provided for the appointment of chaplains only days after approving language for the First Amendment demonstrates that the Framers considered legislative prayer a benign acknowledgment of religion’s role in society,” he wrote.

The town of Greece used mostly Christian prayers because its citizens are predominantly Christian. Yet when rabbis and clerics of other faiths asked to give the prayer, they were welcome. Even a Wiccan priestess was allowed to issue what we suppose was an anti-prayer. Council members and visitors were under no obligation to pray along and there was no evidence of punishment or even disapproval for anyone who didn’t.

Justice Kennedy added that demanding with Justice Kagan that the town allow only a generic prayer would require that town leaders get in the business of scrubbing the text in advance. Politicians would have to become judges of what is tolerable public religious expression.

“The First Amendment is not a majority rule, and government may not seek to define permissible categories of religious speech,” wrote Justice Kennedy. “Once it invites prayer into the public sphere, government must permit a prayer giver to address his or her own God or gods as conscience dictates, unfettered by what an administrator or judge considers to be nonsectarian.”

While the decision is welcome, the close vote shows that public prayer hangs by a single vote at the High Court. The liberal Justices were more than happy to modify a precedent to further restrict even the most passing public reference to a sectarian God. Religion is in no danger of imposing itself on Americans, but a dominant secular legal culture is still working hard to push religion to the sidelines of American public life.

via Prayer in the Public Square – WSJ.com.

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Cold War 2.0, the Videogame

“..we let it go…”
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We are close to the Putin endgame in Ukraine. On Wednesday troop-filled trucks flying Russian flags were seen in eastern Ukraine’s cities. The politically fractured and under-trained Ukrainian military sent toward Donetsk and other cities this week is no match for the camouflaged special-ops forces Russia has there, or the 50,000 Russian troops and fighter jets near the eastern border.

The West didn’t lose Ukraine, an independent nation of 45 million people. It simply let it go. According to this newspaper Tuesday: “The White House reiterated that no lethal assistance was planned” to help Ukraine defend itself. The U.S., however, did send ready-to-eat meals. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney’s comments were antiseptic: “The Ukrainian government has a responsibility to provide law and order.” It is fitting that churchgoers the world over this week are hearing the story of Pontius Pilate.

That the historic implications of Russia’s re-subjugation of Ukraine seems to be largely an abstraction to the current president of the United States is no surprise. Recent American Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul has called this confrontation Cold War 2.0. But this implies one understands what Cold War 1.0 was.

When the Soviet Union’s tanks rolled into Hungary in 1956, Barack Obama wasn’t born. He was seven when the Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968. He may be president, but he isn’t alone.

In Western Europe and the U.S., the Cold War, which lasted from 1947 until 1991, is barely taught in schools. It’s just a phrase for most of the young and a dimming memory for others. The West’s intellectuals often diminish the significance of the Cold War. They say it didn’t matter much, that the Soviet Union unwound on its own. No small number of these thinkers were half-sorry to see this “flawed” experiment in income-equality fail.

Now some of the same arbiters of history are saying the conflict in Ukraine is the West’s fault, again. What drove Mr. Putin into Georgia, Crimea and Ukraine was the needless historic hurt the West did to Russia’s vestigial interests by expanding NATO’s membership eastward.

Let’s look at what the phrase “expanding NATO’s membership” means. In 1999, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic joined NATO. In 2004, it took in Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Bulgaria, Slovakia and Romania. That list is fraught with historic significance. These are the nations that Winston Churchill in 1946 named the Iron Curtain countries. All were communist and all inside—another antiseptic phrase—the Soviet Union’s “sphere of influence.”

If you tried to leave an Iron Curtain country, you could be imprisoned or shot. It may be that Cold War 1.0 was in large part about the nuclear standoff between the U.S. and Soviet Union, but for the tens of millions who lived in Eastern and Central Europe, it was about 50 years of paranoia, imprisonment, shattered careers, moral compromises and daily obeisance to the Soviet Union, aka Russia. Whenever one hears that we in the West have been unmindful of Mr. Putin’s “historic” interests in Ukraine, one wants to suggest for further reading Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s “The Gulag Archipelago” or Vaclav Havel’s “The Power of the Powerless.”

The dictators who ran the so-called Eastern Bloc countries for the Soviets had names like Ceausescu, Honecker, Jaruzelski, Hoxha and Kadar. It seemed as if they would rule behind their Iron Curtain forever because the Red Army to the east had their backs. Then in the 1970s, a determined internal opposition developed. They had names like Havel, Walesa and Wojtyla. Karol Wojtyla became Pope John Paul II, called “the Polish pope” because he fought there against the unfree society designed by Vladimir Putin’s predecessors.

Now the battle for Ukraine is ending without much more than a yawn in Washington, London, Paris and most ironic of all, the Berlin that the Cold War divided in two. In 1947, President Harry Truman, a Democrat, began a year-long allied airlift to supply Soviet-occupied and isolated Berlin. The Berlin airlift broke the blockade. Nobody running the West would do that now.

After the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, the Iron Curtain countries chose to be democracies and turned to the West. Now, 25 years later, Vladimir Putin has demolished democracy in Russia and is proposing Potemkin-village votes in Ukraine held under the barrel of a gun.

Earlier this month, Poland’s prime minister, Donald Tusk, said, “If there is a thing such as NATO’s border that needs diligence it would be Poland’s eastern border.” He knows that pressure from his neighbor in the east will come after Ukraine. What remains of NATO now is a good question. Mr. Putin gave his answer in Ukraine.

The post Cold-War West stands un-led by the American president. Vladimir Putin famously believes the U.S. and Western Europe in 2014 are filled with self-indulgent populations who can barely lift their eyes from an iPhone screen to see a European nation swallowed. Yes, it does look like Cold War 2.0. The videogame.

Write to henninger@wsj.com

Henninger: Cold War 2.0, the Videogame – WSJ.com.

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