October 23, 2014

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Rich Karlgaard with what could have been.

… Suppose the U.S. economy, since 1949, were giving up 2% extra growth per year because of bad economic policy. Or, as Ramsey might say, because Presidents, legislators and unelected regulators were born stupid or try their best to act that way.

Now, 2% a year doesn’t sound like much. Most of us could spend 98% of our budget next year without too much pain. The quip about compound interest is noteworthy only because it would take a genius like Einstein to observe something so profoundly simple yet subtly opaque.

But run the numbers yourself–and prepare for a shock. If the U.S. economy had grown an extra 2% per year since 1949, 2014′s GDP would be about $58 trillion, not $17 trillion. So says a study called “Federal Regulation and Aggregate Economic Growth,” published in 2013 by the Journal of Economic Growth. More than taxes, it’s been runaway federal regulation that’s crimped U.S. growth by the year and utterly smashed it over two generations. …

… So let’s, for the sake of argument, posit that some regulation has been good for us, while many other regs have only hurt economic growth. Let’s also argue that sensible regulation, combined with the retirement of outdated regulation, could have brought about the same improvements to health and safety–but at a cost of 1% potential growth per year, not 2%. Where would the U.S. economy be today?

–The 2014 GDP would be $32 trillion, not $17 trillion.

–Per capita income would be $101,000, not $54,000. …



Two new biographies of Ayn Rand are reviewed by Charles Murray.

In 1991, the book-of-the-month club conducted a survey asking people what book had most influenced their lives. The Bible ranked number one and Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” was number two. In 1998, the Modern Library released two lists of the top 100 books of the twentieth century. One was compiled from the votes of the Modern Library’s Board, consisting of luminaries such as Joyce Carol Oates, Maya Angelou, Edmund Morris, and Salman Rushdie. The two top-ranked books on the Board’s list were “Ulysses” and “The Great Gatsby.”

The other list was based on more than 200,000 votes cast online by anyone who wanted to vote. The top two on that list were “Atlas Shrugged” (1957) and “The Fountainhead” (1943). The two novels have had six-figure annual sales for decades, running at a combined 300,000 copies annually during the past ten years. In 2009, “Atlas Shrugged” alone sold a record 500,000 copies and Rand’s four novels combined (the lesser two are “We the Living” [1936] and “Anthem” [1938]) sold more than 1,000,000 copies.

And yet for 27 years after her death in 1982, we had no single scholarly biography of Ayn Rand. Who was this woman? How did she come to write such phenomenally influential novels? What are we to make of her legacy? These questions were finally asked and answered splendidly, with somewhat different emphases, in two biographies published within weeks of each other in 2009: “Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right” by Jennifer Burns, an assistant professor of history at the University of Virginia, and “Ayn Rand and the World She Made” by Anne C. Heller, a former executive editor at Condé Nast Publications. …



A WSJ OpEd argues there might be less immaturity in the NFL if the route to the big show had some time in the minors like baseball. 

With the 110th World Series starting this week and news of bad behavior in the National Football League more or less simmering on the back burner, it has occurred to me how significantly the path to becoming a star in professional football differs from that in baseball.

The famous big-league baseball executive Branch Rickey customarily gets credit for revolutionizing the road to a professional career in the sport by creating the St. Louis Cardinals’ farm-team system in the 1920s. However, for decades professional minor-league baseball teams had served as a proving-ground for young players. My grandfather Bob Groom pitched 10 seasons in the majors from 1909 to 1918 and experienced firsthand the minor leagues’ rites of initiation.

Groom signed his first professional contract on March 7, 1904, with the Class D Springfield, Mo., team and played five seasons in the MissouriValley and PacificCoast leagues before going up to Washington, D.C., to play for the original Nationals of the American League, later the Washington Senators. His first minor-league contract paid him the magnificent sum of $2 a day plus room, board and travel during the season, though it was his responsibility to get to the two weeks of required (unpaid) preseason training. …



The country is being over run by pigs. But not the political kind. Scientific American writes on the infestation of the country by wild pigs. Luckily it is nowhere near as expensive as the political pigs because the country could not survive two sets of costly parasites.

For centuries wild pigs caused headaches for landowners in the American South, but the foragers’ small populations remained stable. In the past 30 years, though, their ranks have swollen until suddenly disease-carrying, crop-devouring swine have spread to 39 states. Now, wild pigs are five million strong and the targets of a $20-million federal initiative to get their numbers under control.
Settlers first brought the ancestors of today’s pigs to the South in the 1600s and let them roam free as a ready supply of fresh pork. Not surprisingly, some of the pigs wandered off and thrived in the wild, thanks to their indiscriminate appetites.

Wildlife biologists can’t really explain how pigs from a few pockets were able to extend their range so rapidly in recent years. “If you look at maps of pig distribution from the eighties, there’s a lot of pigs, but primarily in Florida and Texas,” says Stephen Ditchkoff, a wildlife ecologist at AuburnUniversity. “Today, populations in the southeast have exploded. In the Midwest and the north it’s grown to be a significant problem.” …

October 22, 2014

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Time for an issue on the upcoming election. John Fund posts on what surprises might be in store.

Every election has its surprises — candidates come out of seeming nowhere to score upsets. Think the stunning loss of Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, in his GOP primary in Virginia.

So who will the surprise winners be this November? The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is suddenly pumping $1 million into South Dakota’s Senate race, now that a new poll this week shows a genuine three-way race as support for the favorite, former GOP governor Mike Rounds, fades. …



A few items here from Jennifer Rubin. First she posts on the electoral nightmare the Ebola crisis has become. 

The Ebola crisis — the outbreak, the halting response, the lack of federal credibility, the anxiety, the media coverage of the panic and every permutation thereof — comes at an inopportune time for the Obama administration, which had not gotten over the Secret Service scandal nor demonstrated that it had a cohesive plan for destroying the Islamic State.

To say that Ebola coverage has crowded out other news is an understatement. (Who is in the World Series?) People normally unaware of politics are becoming experts in CDC protocols and second-guessing the president’s moves. And this phenomenon is already beginning to wreak havoc on the embattled president and his fellow Democrats in ways large and small. …



Jennifer Rubin says the distinguished pol of the week was Cory Gardner in Colorado.

… Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) has run a smart campaign, outfoxing his opponent’s war on women tripe by supporting over-the-counter birth control pills. He has snagged the endorsement of the Denver Post.  And to top it off he demolished a false hit piece that claimed he had never played football in high school. As of this writing, he’s pulling ahead of incumbent Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) by a few points, and in most recent polling has kept the gap between him and Udall among women to single digits, practically unheard of these days for a Republican. …



And Rubin also has posted on Tina Brown’s comments yesterday.

Tina Brown, doyenne of the limousine-liberal set, has it right when she opines about women: “I think they’re feeling unsafe. They feel unsafe, economically; they’re feeling unsafe with regard to ISIS; they’re feeling unsafe about Ebola. What they’re feeling unsafe about is the government response to different crises.” For good measure, she adds, ““I think they’re beginning to feel a bit that Obama’s like that guy in the corner office who’s too cool for school. [He] calls a meeting, says this has to change, doesn’t put anything in place to make sure it does change, then it goes wrong and he’s blaming everybody.”

Brown, however, is only partially right when she says Republicans are not offering much. In some cases, that is true. The anti-government right-wingers sound hysterical or angry or both, which is hardly comforting. As Mona Charen writes: “Republicans should not fear women voters. They are not an army of Sandra Fluke shock troops. They are repelled by perceived extremism, and they are interested in whether a candidate can improve daily life.”

Hmm, that sounds a lot like reform conservatism — a thoughtful alternative to the liberal welfare state that is based on conservative values but applied to current problems. …



For a treat we have Matthew Continetti and Noemie Emery on the gaffs of the Dem candidates. Continetti pivots off George Allen’s “macaca” slur delivered during his losing 2006 campaign.

Something peculiar has happened. As I write, none of the Republican candidates for Senate has become a public embarrassment. On the contrary: For the first time in a decade, it is the Democratic candidates, not the Republican ones, who are fodder for late-night comics. That the Democrats are committing gaffes and causing scandals at a higher rate than Republicans not only may be decisive in the battle for the Senate. It could signal a change in our politics at large.

Yes, at any given moment, one of the Republican candidates could say something stupid, could be revealed to be unethical, could act like an idiot. These are human beings we are talking about. There is a little more than two weeks to go before Election Day—plenty of time for Republicans to screw it up. But the fact that the GOP field has come so far without committing unforced errors is news in itself.

Since 2006, when Republican Senator George Allen of Virginia referred to an Indian-American Democratic tracker as “Macaca,” GOP candidates have found ways to provoke, to offend, to annoy, to spawn unpleasant narratives, to let themselves become the story. In 2014, though, the Macaca moments aren’t coming from Republicans. They are coming from Democrats. …



Noemie Emery uses Todd Akin as her GOP idiot.

For two years, Republicans have been haunted by Todd Akin syndrome, in which a spectacular gaffe in an abortion-themed context becomes a costly embarrassment to a candidate’s party. And they were right. But the good news for them is that the bug is contagious. Democrats have lately been showing its symptoms, proving no one is immune. …

… Strike two is working itself out in the midterm elections, when the Democrats put all of their eggs in the birth-control basket, insisting that nuns subsidize contraception and that any restrictions at all on abortion mean war. They targeted Senate candidates Joni Ernst in Iowa and Cory Gardner in Colorado, with the happy result that both are now leading, quickly closing the gender gap among women. Last Friday, the liberal Denver Post rocked the political world by endorsing Gardner over the man called “Mark Uterus” because of his single-minded obsession. “[Sen. Mark] Udall is trying to frighten voters rather than inspire them,” said the paper, correctly. “His obnoxious one-issue campaign is an insult to those he seeks to convince.” …



Joel Kotkin writes on the inherent contradictions in the Dem coalition.

… now many on the political left are openly critical of the president, notably for his close ties to the moguls of Wall Street and Silicon Valley. These moguls have been the predominant beneficiaries of his economic policies while middle-class incomes have continued to languish – and even fall.

This disenchantment can be seen among many professional progressives and their allies in the associated media. Michael Moore, for example, recently suggested that in the future Obama would be remembered simply for being the nation’s “first black president.” This disenchantment is also spreading to the Left’s grass-roots, with the president’s favorability ratings dropping even in such progressive bastions as New York and California. …

… the overall Obamaism has redefined the Democrats from a broad national party to one that is essentially bicoastal, and urban.

Nowhere is this shift more evident than in energy policy. Tough controls on carbon emissions appeal to the well-educated urban liberals, mainstream media, entertainment and downtown real estate developers who are their main funders – all primary funding sources.

But this approach undermines support for the party in energy producing areas such as West Virginia, Louisiana, the Dakotas and Texas as well as those industrial states, such as Indiana, that rely heavily on coal and other fossil fuels.

In the new Democratic calculus, greens, wealthy venture capitalists, Hollywood producers feminists and ethnic warlords matter much more than coal miners, factory or construction workers.

October 21, 2014

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Yuval Levin with suggestions of what we could learn from the Ebola crisis.

In the growing public debate about Ebola, both sides are basically right. The administration is right that we are not witnessing an outbreak of Ebola and that such an outbreak is unlikely in our highly developed public-health system. But the administration’s critics are right that we are witnessing serious failures of that system that should be cause for serious alarm and major improvement. 

Ideally, this unusual combination of circumstances — a genuine test of our communicable-disease containment and response system in which the danger to the public at large is actually quite small — would be an opportunity to learn some humbling lessons and make some meaningful changes. We have already learned, for instance, that in the case of a serious public-health crisis, our public officials will have a tendency to express vast overconfidence while relying on plans and procedures that demand an unrealistic level of competence from an enormous number of people in a wide variety of circumstances. The president should not have said that it was unlikely that anyone with Ebola would reach our shores, and the CDC director should not have said that essentially any hospital in America can handle Ebola — and more important, his agency should not have believed that and built its response plan on that premise.

This crucial process of learning lessons has been hampered so far by a peculiar attitude that often emerges in our politics in times of crisis and imbues our debates with the wrong approach to learning from failure. The attitude is premised on the bizarre assumption that large institutions are hyper-competent by default, so that when they fail we should seek for nefarious causes. Not only liberals (who are at least pretty consistent about making this ridiculous mistake) but also some conservatives who should know better respond with a mix of outrage and disgust to failures of government to contend effortlessly with daunting emergencies. …



Kevin Williamson writes on the Ebola administration.

… The Right has had a good deal of fun this week mocking all of the things that our federal health czars have been paying attention to in recent years rather than horrifying threats such as Ebola — e.g., figuring out why lesbians are commonly fat but gay men aren’t, stopping us from bringing home cheese from France but not Ebola from Liberia, etc. But that could very well turn un-funny in short order. It is impossible to tell what will happen with Ebola here or abroad, and the flapping of this viral butterfly’s wings represents one of those high-stakes rolls of history’s dice, the outcome of which cannot be anticipated. Consider such human, economic, and cultural catastrophes as the Great War, HIV, or Communism: None of those was the obvious outcome of a foreseeable chain of events. Neither Karl Marx nor Gavrilo Princip, to say nothing of that unknown chimpanzee hunter, could have imagined where the currents of history in which they were wading would end up taking us.

I am a long-term optimist, but the politics of fear gets a bad rap. Conservatives and progressives both understand in our bones that — for better and for worse — the world is an uncertain and unpredictable place, and full of dangers as well as unforeseen delights. For the Left, mitigating those risks means mostly offering social-welfare guarantees; for the Right, risk-mitigation means preferring to have a military whose capabilities exceed those of the rest of the world combined several times over. Each of those tendencies runs into problems as it interacts with economic and political realities, and the terrifying thing that must be understood is that those Lockheed contracts — along with the nuclear arsenal and the rest of our national security — are in the hands of the same class of people and institutions responsible for our feckless response to Ebola’s arrival on our shores, a fact that would if well appreciated liberate us from any temptation toward ideological complacency.



Noah Rothman at Hot Air posts on the efforts by the left to blame the Ebola crisis on budget cuts.

… Even those ostensibly nonpartisan actors who insist that Republicans stood in the way of a life-saving vaccine are on the receiving end of a rebuke from their more honest colleagues. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the lead researcher on the NIH’s effort to develop an Ebola vaccine, told Time Magazine reporters in early October that there is no vaccine today because, intuitively, “there was no disease around.” For the deliberately obtuse, he called this condition “obvious.” Today, Fauci reiterated his objection to his director’s divisive and baseless claim unequivocally in an interview with Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd.

Only a desperate partisan would embrace the routine and cynical pleas from an agency head for more funding as the gospel truth, but such is the dire state of Democratic political prospects.

Naturally, the legs having been ripped out from under this reckless attack on Republicans’ integrity amid a health emergency, you would expect those Democrats with some self-respect to abandon it, right? Not so fast. …



John Podhoretz says the Times should get paid for running ads for the administration.

These are difficult times, so it makes sense for America’s journalistic institutions to locate new revenue streams.

Just look at the New York Times, always an industry leader: It’s become the official stenographer of the Obama White House.

On Saturday, The Times ran a story about the president and his response to the Ebola outbreak that read like it was dictated word for word by the president’s top men.

If I were a stockholder in the New York Times Co., I would certainly hope the paper was properly compensated for the front-page placement of this naked political advertisement.

The only thing missing from it was the opening line that all political commercials are now required to include: “I’m Barack Obama and I approve of this message.” …



The Blog Just One Minute posts on the continuingly shocked and surprised and disappointed President Bystander.

… I have lost track of the number of times we have read that Obama is shocked to learn that big bureaucracies can be clumsy and plagued by poor communication, but I welcome some reminders in the comments; offhand, the Secret Service, the HealthCare.fail rollout and the VA spring to mind, but I also recall he learned about the IRS and Fast and Furious by careful reading of his daily newspapers.

My advice to Team Obama – encourage the Big Guy to take a look around. If he sees a playing field and thousands of screaming fans then he is probably in a luxury skybox somewhere and yes, he is free to cheer and boo like any other spectator. But if he sees a famous desk and slightly curved walls, then he is probably in the Oval Office and might want to remember that he is Chief Executive of the United States and is notionally responsible for the many bureaucracies he purportedly leads.

And I am begging these inside sources offering these seemingly friendly (and seemingly endless) attempts to separate Obama from the debacle du jour – after six years even Obama, a True Believer in Big Government with no actual executive experience, must have noticed that bureaucracies take a bit of coaxing and management. Enough already with the whinging and hand-wringing. …



Glenn Reynolds shares with us Bobby Jindal’s tweets on the four stages of obama crisis management.

Stage 1 of Obama Crisis Management: Don’t worry, I got this.

Stage 2 of Obama Crisis Management: I’m so mad.

Stage 3 of Obama Crisis Management: More money will fix it.

Stage 4 of Obama Crisis Management: Republicans are obstructing.



Breitbart News picks up on Tina Brown throwing the One under the bus.

“They’ve got themselves a little better disciplined. But, you know, the fact is that Obama’s down with everybody, let’s face it, there’s a reason,” Brown said. “And I think that particularly for women. I don’t think it makes them feel safe. I think they’re feeling unsafe. Economically, they’re feeling unsafe. With regard to ISIS, they’re feeling unsafe. They feel unsafe about Ebola. What they’re feeling unsafe about is the government response to different crises. And I think they’re beginning to feel a bit that Obama’s like that guy in the corner office, you know, who’s too cool for school, calls a meeting, says this has to change, doesn’t put anything in place to make sure it does change, then it goes wrong and he’s blaming everybody. So there’s a slight sense of that.”


Cartoonists are especially good today.

October 20, 2014

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We have a few items today on new ways to shop. We refer to the online shopping and door to door delivery services that are in our future. We start with Amazon’s efforts as portrayed by Wired.

Amazon’s reinvention of the warehouse is a logistical advance on par with the shipping container or the bar code. Convenience stores are a trillion-dollar industry worldwide, despite the fact that they’re not actually very convenient. … 

… True convenience shopping is on its way, though, and we won’t need to drive at all to enjoy it. Instead, the store will come to us: Within five years, the majority of items we crave on short notice—ice cream, books, umbrellas, lightbulbs—will be available for delivery the same day.

…It’s hardly a surprise that Amazon is the farthest along in building this future. Back in the early days of the web, when everyone else was trying to figure out how to make the Internet work better in and for itself, Jeff Bezos was already trying to make it work for the world of physical retail. To move stuff at the speed of the Internet—that is, as fast as possible—the Amazon founder realized he needed to think algorithmically about order fulfillment. …

… But the ambition of what Amazon has done inside its warehouses is nothing compared to what it’s now trying to do beyond those walls. On the streets of several US cities, lime-green trucks emblazoned with the AmazonFresh logo deliver groceries the same day they’re ordered. And food is just a wedge product that, if it catches on for Amazon, could turn the company’s trucks into roving nodes on a logistics network that’s able to deliver nearly anything.

Over the past several years, Amazon has foregone profits to fund massive new “fulfillment centers” within range of the largest metro areas in the US. …



And the Wall Street Journal writes about Google’s efforts in this area.

Google Inc. is expanding its delivery service and will start charging a membership fee, intensifying its battle with Amazon.com Inc. for consumer spending.

Starting this week, Google will charge $10 a month, or $95 a year, for unlimited same-day or overnight delivery on orders over $15. Nonmembers will pay $4.99 an order, or $7.99 if the order costs less than $15. Until now, the deliveries had been free. 

The service, initially named Google Shopping Express but now known simply as Google Express, lets customers place orders online for products from physical stores run by retailers including Costco Wholesale Corp. , Staples Inc. and Walgreen Co.

Google said it is expanding the service to Washington, D.C., Boston and Chicago on Tuesday. It previously served the San Francisco Bay Area and parts of New York City and Los Angeles. …



Now according to Wired, Uber is getting in on the act.

Uber is already an expert in getting you from door-to-door. Now, the company wants to figure out how to deliver stuff to your door as well.

On Tuesday, Uber announced a pilot program for what it calls Uber Corner Store, a service that would allow Uber users in the WashingtonD.C. area to get staple items like toothpaste and bandages delivered from local stores. According to a blog post, the program will only last a few weeks, but it hints at CEO Travis Kalanick’s long-term vision for Uber, which is to transform the company from a pure transportation play into a full-fledged logistics company.

Uber has never been one to back down from a fight. Since its earliest days, it has wrestled with regulators and fought dirty with competitors like Lyft. But all of that may be child’s play compared to what could come next. With Corner Store, the five-year-old startup could be setting itself up for an all-out war with two of tech’s superpowers: Google and Amazon.

It hints at CEO Travis Kalanick’s long-term vision for Uber, which is to transform the company from a pure transportation play into a full-fledged logistics company. …



The country of Nigeria continues to impress with its containment of the Ebola scare. Scientific American covers Nigeria’s success.

… The swift battle was won not only with vigilant disinfecting, port-of-entry screening and rapid isolation but also with boot leather and lots and lots of in-person follow-up visits, completing 18,500 of them to find any new cases of Ebola among a total of 989 identified contacts.

Such ground-level work may sound extreme, and the usually measured WHO declared the feat “a piece of world-class epidemiological detective work.” But as William Schaffner, chair of the Department of Preventive Medicine and an infectious disease expert at VanderbiltUniversity, says, “Actually what Nigeria did is routine, regular—but vigorous and rigorous—public health practice. They identified cases early—fortunately they had a limited number—and they got a list of all of the contacts, and they put those people under rigorous surveillance so that if they were to become sick, they wouldn’t transmit the infection to others,” he says.

Art Reingold, head of epidemiology at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health agrees. The steps are basic: “isolation, quarantine of contacts, etcetera,” but governments must “get in quickly and do it really well.” It was Nigeria’s vigorous and rapid public health response that really stopped the spread. Because when Ebola lands one August afternoon in a city of 21 million, things could go very, very differently. …



And the Financial Times says Nigeria’s Twitter followers participated.

Dr Lawal Bakare broke a world record last year when he corralled 200,000 school children in Lagos into brushing their teeth at exactly the same time. This year, the 31-year-old dentist and social media activist felt compelled to lend his organisational savvy to the campaign to fight Ebola.

Alongside other volunteers from Nigeria’s rapidly expanding information technology sector, he played a central role in the public awareness campaign that helped federal, state and non-governmental agencies contain the deadly virus before it could spread out of control. …

… “When community action is heightened the story changes,” says Dr Bakare. “We are spreading on Twitter much faster than the Ebola virus. Part of what we are going to do now is to see how we can transfer this to other sectors of society.”

According to the latest data there are 114m mobile phone subscriptions for Nigeria’s 170m population. There are 55m internet users and 11m people are signed up on Facebook. Yet only 13 years ago the country had no functioning mobile phones, internet was by painfully slow dial-up and only 1 in 300 Nigerians had access to a landline. …



Compare the government of Nigeria to the idiots in DC. NY Post writes on how the feds block Ebola cures.

We have technology to potentially control Ebola and other viral outbreaks today. But the federal bureaucracy refuses to catch up with 21st-century science.

For example, diagnostic startup Nanobiosym has an iPhone-sized device that can accurately detect Ebola and other infectious diseases in less than an hour.

Two other companies, Synthetic Genomics and Novartis, have the capacity to create synthetic vaccine viruses for influenza and other infectious diseases in only four days. Both firms can also share data about outbreaks instantaneously and make real-time, geographically specific diagnosis and vaccine production possible.

These companies could start producing Ebola vaccine/treatments tomorrow — except that the Food and Drug Administration’s insistence on randomized studies and endless demands for more data means firms have to spend millions on paperwork instead of producing medicines.

And for every small company drained by such tactics, many others conclude it’s not even worth trying.

These advances aren’t available because the FDA is using 19th-century science to decide which medical technologies should be used in the 21st century. …

October 19, 2014

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It’s Ebola Day here at Pickings; Krauthammer, Steyn, Roger Simon, and more of our favorites post on yet another example of a government disaster. Charles is first.

Unnervingly, the U.S. public health services remain steps behind the Ebola virus. Contact tracing is what we do, Centers for Disease Control Director Tom Frieden assured the nation. It will stop the epidemic “in its tracks.” And yet nurses Nina Pham and Amber Vinson, who developed Ebola, were not even among the 48 contacts the CDC was initially following.

Nor were any of the doctors and nurses who treated the “index patient,” Thomas Duncan. No one even had a full list of caregivers.

The other reassurance was: Not to worry. We know what we’re doing. We have protocols. When, however, we got the first Ebola transmission in the United States, it was blamed on a “breach in protocol.”

Translation: “Don’t blame us. The nurse screwed up.” The nurses union was not amused. Frieden had to walk that back the next day, saying he didn’t mean to blame anyone.

Frieden had said that “the care of Ebola can be done safely, but it is hard to do it safely.” Meaning: In theory, it’s easy; in practice, very dangerous. Unfortunately, that’s not what he said on Day One. When you hear it two weeks later, you begin to wonder. …



Mark Steyn.

Thomas Frieden has now got his Protocol Ali routine down pat:

“Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said during a telephone press briefing Wednesday that you cannot get Ebola by sitting next to someone on a bus, but that infected or exposed persons should not ride public transportation because they could transmit the disease to someone else.”

Gotcha. You can’t get Ebola on a bus or a plane, you can only give it. Good to know. Thanks, Doc.

The Centers for Disease Control is one of those elite federal agencies that people hitherto assumed was, so to speak, immune to the pathologies of less glamorous government bureaucracies. It turns out it’s the DMV with test tubes – just the usual “Sorry? Did we say you need two copies of the green form? We meant you need three copies of the pink form” routine with extra lethality. …



Surveying the last few years, Roger Simon asks if it could get any worse? 

Let’s review:

The stock market is in free fall.

The Islamic State is on the brink of taking Baghdad and Kobani.

The Ebola crisis is spreading and seems on the verge of becoming a pandemic while the CDC is being unmasked as incompetent.

The Iran talks are a charade and everyone expects that country to get the bomb.

Our vaunted college campuses are transfixed by so-called micro-aggressions and a supposed rape epidemic while banning the likes of Ayaan Hirsi Ali and George Will (!) from speaking — and they still cost nearly $70,000 a year. …



Scott Johnson posts on the refusal to install a travel ban.

No explanation offered by the White House or the CDC about our refusal to impose a travel ban on Liberian or other visitors from affected west African countries to the United States makes sense, or so it seems to me. Indeed, what has been said (again, so it seems to me) ranges from the nonsensical to the absurd, from BS to balderdash. If a travel ban would serve to protect American citizens and institutions, however imperfectly, what is the rationale for refusing to impose one?

The refusal seems obviously to be driven by a brand of politics that verges on the insane. Thus the reticence of the White House to expose its true train of thought to public view. …

… Of course, you can’t expect our government to be as competent as Nigeria’s.



Speaking of Nigeria’s competence, here’s the story from Business Week. And Ethiopia and South Africa are screening incoming passengers. Of course, there’re all probably racists.

Health officials battling the Ebola outbreak that has killed more than 4,500 people in West Africa have managed to limit its spread on the continent to five countries — and two of them appear to have snuffed out the disease.

Officials credit tighter border controls, good patient-tracking and other medical practices, and just plain luck with keeping Ebola confined mostly to

Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea since the outbreak was first identified in March.

Senegal did so well in finding and isolating a man with Ebola who had slipped across the border from Guinea in August that the World Health Organization on Friday will declare the end of the disease in Senegal if no new cases surface.

Nigeria is another success story. It had 20 cases and eight deaths after the virus was brought by a Liberian-American who flew from Liberia to Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital of 21 million people, in July. Nearly 900 people were potentially exposed to the virus by the traveler, who died, and the disease could have wreaked havoc in Africa’s most populous nation.Instead, Ebola appears to have been beaten, in large part through aggressive tracking of Ebola contacts, with no new cases since Aug. 31. …



Ron Fournier doesn’t think much of the czar.

1. We shouldn’t need an Ebola czar.

2. We already put somebody in charge of corralling federal bureaucracies and coordinating local responses to national emergencies. His name is Barack Obama.

3. He has a chief of staff, the nation’s chief operating officer, Denis McDonough; a homeland security adviser, Lisa Monaco; a national security adviser, Susan Rice; a director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and a Cabinet full of secretaries.

4. That should be enough. …

… 11. The choice makes sense if Obama’s main concern is a) the incompetence of his team, or; b) midterm politics. My strong hunch is it’s “b”. The Obama White House is not self-aware. It is nakedly political. The uneven response to Ebola threatens to be a toxic issue for Democrats, and the president is under pressure from his party’s desperate candidates to do something.

12. Klain will report to Rice and Monaco. That makes no sense. Even if you think a czar is needed, and believe that the czar should be a Democratic operative steeped in White House politics, this reporting structure is a mistake. He should report directly to Obama. …



Michael Walsh says the Klain pick tells us all we need to know about the administration.

The announcement of Ron Klain as the new Ebola “czar” checks all the boxes: Harvard Law, longtime Democrat party op, veteran of the Clinton, Al Gore and John Kerry campaigns. The problem is, it checks all the wrong boxes. The Progressive myth is that we ought to have a government of experts — top men! — to handle the nation’s problems in a calm, deliberative manner. The reality is that we have a nation of unscrupulous lawyers, amoral apparatchiks and political hacks whose only area of expertise is manipulating the electoral and governmental systems and getting rich by doing so. …

1. If a retread party hack like Klain is the best Obama can do, then the Democrat talent pool is incredibly shallow. Naturally, though, Obama wouldn’t think of going outside it.

2. The President considers Ebola a political/messaging problem, not a medical problem. Klain is an insider process guy, not an expert in the field.

3. The fact that we need a “Czar” to cut across federal agency red-tape and make things happen expeditiously is an indictment of the federal agencies themselves, although no Democrat would ever dare to suggest such a thing. The choice signals that, as Ronald Reagan said, government itself is the problem, not the solution. …



Al least Andy Malcolm is here with late night humor.

Fallon: New York state is spending $750 million on a solar plant in Buffalo. Thousands of jobs, most of them getting snow off the solar panels. Seriously? Buffalo?

Conan: JetBlue’s CEO announces he will step down in February. Of course, it being JetBlue, his actual departure may be delayed until March.

Meyers: Florida police are searching for the people who stole 18 tons of Crisco. Police have failed to apprehend the suspects despite catching them several times.

October 16, 2014

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Jennifer Rubin points to GOP snake oil salesmen.

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to let gay marriage bans fall in another batch of states, there are two types of responses from conservatives. The first acknowledges reality; the second misleads voters that there is something tangible to be done to stop the wave of social change.

In the first category, some Republicans like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker have simply said in effect the boat has sailed. Others like Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) gave eloquent critiques of the Supreme Court and expressed his sincere disappointment the court did not act differently. ..

… Then there are the pols who would have us believe there is something realistically that can stop this and that those who refuse are just weaklings. Gov. Mike Huckabee went so far as to threaten to leave the GOP if Republicans “raise the white flag” on gay marriage. …

… Unfortunately this reaction is emblematic of the politics of empty gestures and illogical crusades. It bonds with voters over a sense of agrievement, but offers no realistic political course to their desired end. And it vilifies their allies on a host of other issues who won’t play the look-how-heartfelt-I-am-unlike-those-squishy-politicians game. It is not behavior becoming of a national leader. …



Jennifer has more on GOP snake oil salesmen with a special emphasis on Mike Huckabee. Pickerhead would rather have a third term of the present clueless feckless hapless president then Huckabee.

As I noted last week, some Republicans are peddling snake oil in their pitch to social conservatives not to “surrender” on gay marriage. Among the worst offenders was former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, who threatened to leave the party if the Republicans, well, if the Republicans don’t . . . what is it that he wants?

On his Fox show and online he struggled to explain what he meant. Mostly he just repeated the same empty phrases. (“Here’s my advice — grow a spine! Show a modicum of knowledge about the way we govern ourselves! And lead, follow, or get the heck out of the way!”) But what does that mean? Well, Huckabee really goes off the rails invoking a discredited far-right notion that we need not succumb to “judicial tyranny”:

“In recent years, the doctrine of Judicial Supremacy has trampled both the Constitution and common sense. The court can certainly rule on an issue, but unless the legislature passes enabling legislation and funds it, and unless the Executive branch signs it and enforces it, it certainly is not “the law of the land!” That’s often exclaimed with authority by voices that belong to people that I wonder — did they pass 9th grade civics? The law of the land requires agreement of all three branches.”

I am afraid it is Huckabee who skipped civics. …


Victor Davis Hanson says things in DC have gone from comedy to farce.

It was tragically comical that the commander in chief in just a few weeks could go from referring to ISIS as “jayvee” and a manageable problem to declaring it an existential threat, in the same manner he upgraded the Free Syrian Army from amateurs and a fantasy to our ground linchpin in the new air war. All that tragic comedy was a continuance of his previous untruths, such as the assurance that existing health plans and doctors would not change under the Affordable Care Act or that there was not a smidgeon of corruption at the IRS.

But lately the Obama confusion has descended into the territory not of tragedy or even tragic comedy, but rather of outright farce.

Last week we learned from the Washington Post that an investigator looking into the Secret Service prostitution scandal was ordered by the inspector general “to withhold and alter certain information in the report of investigation because it was potentially embarrassing to the administration.” The “embarrassing” information was the allegation that a member of the White House staff advance team had solicited a prostitute while prepping Obama’s Colombia visit — a fact denied by then-White House Press Secretary Jay Carney in April 2012, when he assured the press that no one from the White House was involved in the scandal that brought down lots of Secret Service and military personnel.

But here is where the farcical kicks in. The squelched investigation was focused on White House staffer Jonathan Dach. And who is Dach? He was at the time a young Yale law student and White House staffer, and is now a State Department activist working on — what else? — “Global Women’s Issues.” …



Slate tells us why decision making saps our strength and how it can be avoided.

After my first day of work in a new city, I found myself sprawled facedown on the carpet of my new apartment. I needed to buy a couch, to finish writing assignments from my last job, to walk the dog—but after deciding which route to take between home and work, choosing a health insurance plan, and setting up a dozen new account passwords, I was totally useless. My husband asked me what I wanted to eat for dinner, and I didn’t care, as long as I didn’t have to think up a menu. It turns out there’s a scientific explanation for what I was experiencing: decision fatigue.

The name is self-explanatory; constant decision-making can be overwhelming. Think about something as simple as grocery shopping after work. Do you get the organic berries at $7 or the nonorganic at $4? Which style of pasta? Which brand of juice? If you’re like me, you only manage to pick out a few things before you get cranky.

It may seem liberating to live in a land of infinite choices, but research in decision-making suggests otherwise. …



Heather Mac Donald on the neo-victorianism on the college campus.

… It is impossible to overstate the growing weirdness of the college sex scene. Campus feminists are reimporting selective portions of a traditional sexual code that they have long scorned, in the name of ending what they preposterously call an epidemic of campus rape. They are once again making males the guardians of female safety and are portraying females as fainting, helpless victims of the untrammeled male libido. They are demanding that college administrators write highly technical rules for sex and aggressively enforce them, 50 years after the proponents of sexual liberation insisted that college adults stop policing student sexual behavior. While the campus feminists are not yet calling for an assistant dean to be present at their drunken couplings, they have created the next best thing: the opportunity to replay every grope and caress before a tribunal of voyeuristic administrators.

The ultimate result of the feminists’ crusade may be the same as if they were explicitly calling for a return to sexual modesty: a sharp decrease in casual, drunken sex. There is no downside to this development. 

Let us recall the norms which the sexual revolution contemptuously swept away in the 1960s. Males and females were assumed on average to have different needs regarding sex: The omnivorous male sex drive would leap at all available targets, whereas females were more selective, associating sex with love and commitment. The male was expected to channel his desire for sex through the rituals of courtship and a proposal of marriage. A high premium was placed on female chastity and great significance accorded its loss; males, by contrast, were given a virtual free pass to play the sexual field to the extent that they could find or purchase a willing partner. The default setting for premarital sex was “no,” at least for females. Girls could opt out of that default—and many did. But placing the default at “no” meant that a female didn’t have to justify her decision not to have sex with particular reasons each time a male importuned her; individual sexual restraint was backed up by collective values. On campuses, administrators enforced these norms through visitation rules designed to prevent student couplings. 

The sexual revolution threw these arrangements aside. …



Public Radio International post on how the language of science became English.

Permafrost, oxygen, hydrogen — it all looks like science to me.

But these terms actually have origins in Russian, Greek and French.

Today though, if a scientist is going to coin a new term, it’s most likely in English. And if they are going to publish a new discovery, it is most definitely in English.

Look no further than the Nobel prize awarded for physiology and medicine to Norwegian couple May-Britt and Edvard Moser. Their research was written and published in English. This was not always so.

“If you look around the world in 1900, and someone told you, ‘Guess what the universal language of science will be in the year 2000?’ You would first of all laugh at them because it was obvious that no one language would be the language of science, but a mixture of French, German and English would be the right answer,” said Michael Gordin.

Gordin is a professor of the history of science at Princeton and his upcoming book, Scientific Babel, explores the history of language and science. …

October 15, 2014

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Bret Stephens skewers two fatuous poseurs (Paul Krugman and the president) as he starts out today’s column on how the world might survive two more years of the this presidency. In the last two days there were 8 bombing sorties against ISIS. As an aside, Pickerhead will point out 72 years ago today it was demonstrated what an unserious president we have. On October 14, 1942 the Luftwaffe made 2,000 sorties against the 5 square miles of Stalingrad not in their hands and the Soviet staging areas across the Volga. 

So Paul Krugman , who once called on Alan Greenspan “to create a housing bubble to replace the Nasdaq bubble”; who, a few months before the eurozone crisis erupted, praised Europe as “an economic success” that “shows that social democracy works”; who, as the U.S. fracking revolution was getting under way, opined that America was “just a bystander” in a global energy story defined by “peak oil”; and who, in 2012, hailed Argentina’s economy as a “remarkable success story”—this guy now tells us, in Rolling Stone magazine, that Barack Obama has been a terrific president.

Which can only mean that the next two years are going to be exceptionally ugly. How to get through them? …



Stephen Hayes writes - Failure Upon Failure; The disintegration of a presidency. This is a long one, but worth reading.

A year before his first inauguration, Barack Obama laid out the objective of his presidency: to renew faith and trust in -activist government and transform the country. In an hourlong interview with the editorial board of the Reno Gazette-Journal on January 16, 2008, Obama said that his campaign was already “shifting the political paradigm” and promised that his presidency would do the same. His model would be Ronald Reagan, who “put us on a fundamentally different path,” in a way that distinguished him from leaders who were content merely to occupy the office. “I think that Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not. And in a way that Bill Clinton did not.”

If Reagan sought to minimize the role of government in the lives of Americans, Obama set out to do the opposite. “We’ve had a federal government that I think has gotten worn down and ineffective over the course of the Bush administration, partly because philosophically this administration did not believe in government as an agent of change,” he complained.

“I want to make government cool again,” he said.

Obama believed in government, and he was confident that his election would signal that the American people were ready to believe again, too.

As we approach the sixth anniversary of his election, the Obama presidency is in tatters. …


… Obama sought to portray himself as a new kind of politician​—​a “post-partisan,” pragmatic problem-solver, not so much a centrist as someone who couldn’t be pinpointed on the left-right ideological spectrum because he floated above it. Traditional labels were anachronistic constructs that didn’t apply to such a transcendent political figure.

Journalists not only swallowed this legend, many of them promoted it. …


… When moderate Democrats expressed concern that Obama’s aggressive liberalism would threaten congres-sional majorities, as had happened in 1994, the White House was dismissive. “The big difference between here and in ’94 was you’ve got me,” Obama told a group of lawmakers. …


… The problems with Obamacare were so bad that they elicited public criticism from Obama’s two living Democratic predecessors. “His major accomplishment was Obamacare and the implementation of it is now questionable at best,” said Jimmy Carter. Bill Clinton urged Obama to keep his word. “The president should honor the commitment the federal government made to those people and let them keep what they got.”

The Obama presidency has seen many low points, but this has to have been one of the lowest​—​Jimmy Carter questioning Obama’s competence and Bill Clinton questioning his integrity. …


… The scandals and policy failures have had a devastating effect. With two years left in his presidency, Obama has no agenda. The major new investments and initiatives that he spoke of after his election never happened. Gun control measures he pushed went nowhere. Immigration reform​—​at least the comprehensive variety that Obama demanded​—​is dead. As the investigations of old scandals continue, new ones have taken their place on newspaper front pages across the country: the chronic failures of the VA and, most recently, a serious cover-up involving the Secret Service.

When he’s not on the golf course, the president seems to spend most of his time fundraising for vulnerable Democrats, threatening executive action on those things he can’t accomplish by leading, and working to minimize crises of his own making.

This is a failed presidency. …


… Here, then, is the great irony of the Obama presidency: Barack Obama will be a transformative president, but not in the way he imagined when he spoke to the Reno Gazette-Journal a year before he took the oath of office. Rather than restore faith in government, the Obama presidency has all but destroyed it. 

Despite himself, Obama has made the case for limited government more powerfully than his opponents. The biggest question in American politics over the next two years is a simple one: Can Republicans take advantage of it?



An amazing thing happened in Denver where the Post endorsed the GOP candidate.

… In every position the Yuma Republican has held over the years — from the state legislature to U.S. House of Representatives — he has quickly become someone to be reckoned with and whose words carry weight. An analysis  on ABC News’ website, for example, singled out Gardner a year ago — before he declared for the Senate — as one of the party’s “rising stars” who represented “a new generation of talent” and who had become a “go-to” member of leadership. …



Jonathan Tobin posts on the significance of the Denver Post’s editorial.

… But the significance of the editorial is that it is one more indication that even liberals understand that the war on women smear is nothing more than empty sloganeering.

The country is deeply divided on social issues but, as they always have in the past, most voters are willing to agree to disagree on abortion provided the positions of candidates are rooted in principle and tempered by common sense. Gardner’s support of over-the-counter birth control is not only, as the Post points out, proof that he isn’t out to ban contraception. It’s also a sensible proposal that would eliminate the need for the government to attempt to force religious employers to pay for free birth control coverage in violation, as the Supreme Court ruled in the Hobby Lobby case, of their First Amendment rights of free exercise of religion.

The paper’s defection from the lockstep liberal smears of Republicans may be a watershed moment in American politics. …

October 14, 2014

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Hernando de Soto says terrorists can be defeated with market economies. For more, here’s de Soto’s Wikipedia entry.

As the U.S. moves into a new theater of the war on terror, it will miss its best chance to beat back Islamic State and other radical groups in the Middle East if it doesn’t deploy a crucial but little-used weapon: an aggressive agenda for economic empowerment. Right now, all we hear about are airstrikes and military maneuvers—which is to be expected when facing down thugs bent on mayhem and destruction.

But if the goal is not only to degrade what President Barack Obama rightly calls Islamic State’s “network of death” but to make it impossible for radical leaders to recruit terrorists in the first place, the West must learn a simple lesson: Economic hope is the only way to win the battle for the constituencies on which terrorist groups feed.

I know something about this. A generation ago, much of Latin America was in turmoil. By 1990, a Marxist-Leninist terrorist organization called Sendero Luminoso, or Shining Path, had seized control of most of my home country, Peru, where I served as the president’s principal adviser. Fashionable opinion held that the people rebelling were the impoverished or underemployed wage slaves of Latin America, that capitalism couldn’t work outside the West and that Latin cultures didn’t really understand market economics.

The conventional wisdom proved to be wrong, however. Reforms in Peru gave indigenous entrepreneurs and farmers control over their assets and a new, more accessible legal framework in which to run businesses, make contracts and borrow—spurring an unprecedented rise in living standards. …


…It is widely known that the Arab Spring was sparked by the self-immolation in 2011 of Mohamed Bouazizi, a 26-year-old Tunisian street merchant. But few have asked why Bouazizi felt driven to kill himself—or why, within 60 days, at least 63 more men and women in Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Egypt also set themselves on fire, sending millions into the streets, toppling four regimes and leading us to today’s turmoil in the Arab world.

To understand why, my institute joined with Utica, Tunisia’s largest business organization, to put together a research team of some 30 Arabs and Peruvians, who fanned out across the region. Over the course of two years, we interviewed the victims’ families and associates, as well as a dozen other self-immolators who had survived their burns.

These suicides, we found, weren’t pleas for political or religious rights or for higher wage subsidies, as some have argued. Bouazizi and the others who burned themselves were extralegal entrepreneurs: builders, contractors, caterers, small vendors and the like. In their dying statements, none referred to religion or politics. Most of those who survived their burns and agreed to be interviewed spoke to us of “economic exclusion.” Their great objective was “ras el mel” (Arabic for “capital”), and their despair and indignation sprang from the arbitrary expropriation of what little capital they had.

Bouazizi’s plight as a small entrepreneur could stand in for the frustrations that millions of Arabs still face. The Tunisian wasn’t a simple laborer. He was a trader from age 12. By the time he was 19, he was keeping the books at the local market. At 26, he was selling fruits and vegetables from different carts and sites.

His mother told us that he was on his way to forming a company of his own and dreamed of buying a pickup truck to take produce to other retail outlets to expand his business. But to get a loan to buy the truck, he needed collateral—and since the assets he held weren’t legally recorded or had murky titles, he didn’t qualify.

Meanwhile, government inspectors made Bouazizi’s life miserable, shaking him down for bribes when he couldn’t produce licenses that were (by design) virtually unobtainable. He tired of the abuse. The day he killed himself, inspectors had come to seize his merchandise and his electronic scale for weighing goods. A tussle began. One municipal inspector, a woman, slapped Bouazizi across the face. That humiliation, along with the confiscation of just $225 worth of his wares, is said to have led the young man to take his own life.



P. J. O’Rourke says we need a Nobel War Prize.

… Wars produce heroes widely recognized by the public. Nobel War Prizes could have been given to Marshal Foch for the Battle of the Marne, Spanish Civil War combatant George Orwell, Winston Churchill, the French Resistance, the U.S. Marine Corps, the Tuskegee Airmen, Charles de Gaulle, FDR, Ike. This is an improvement on the Permanent International Peace Bureau, Charles Albert Gobat, and Ludwig Quidde. The Nobel Foundation’s P.R. profile would be considerably raised.

Then there’s what often comes after a war, which is usually less silly than what comes after a Nobel Peace Prize. Look at the U.S. and Great Britain. Once we got past that 1776 thing we’ve been—with a brief time-out for the War of 1812—road dawgs.

The Southern States and the Northern States after the Civil War? We’re so close that we date-swapped the political parties that had been screwing us.

The Europeans were at daggers drawn for more than 30 years. But look at them after 1945, brothers from other mothers, living in each other’s pockets, Germany lending to France to pay Greece to repay Germany, friends with benefits.

And ever since we started passing notes on the deck of the battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay, America and Japan have been Batman and Robin.

If you want peace, have a war. Just make sure to have a good, prize-winning one.



New Scientist says the best anti-aging pill might be exercise.

IT COULD be the biggest killer you’ve never heard of: the weakening and loss of muscle that happens as we get older.

Muscle loss is no longer seen as just a side effect of disease and frailty – it’s also a prime cause. As well as contributing to falls, muscle loss has serious knock-on effects on metabolism (see “Life-saving muscle“). In future, muscle-boosting drugs could aid those unable to maintain muscle mass through exercise such as weight training. Although researchers stress this isn’t about bodybuilding, but keeping muscles in your limbs at a healthy level.

Muscle loss, also known as sarcopenia, is increasingly being seen as an important facet of ageing …

… What’s more, muscle is the only place the body can store amino acids – the building blocks of proteins – so when someone with little muscle becomes ill they have few reserves to call on.

Healthy muscle tissue is also a major consumer of glucose, so lack of muscle means the body can’t cope well with the surge of blood glucose after meals, which slowly nudges people down the road to diabetes. “People think of muscle as the body’s mover, but it’s really a huge metabolic organ,” says Daniel Moore of the University of Toronto, Canada.

October 13, 2014

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Hitherto the country’s worst president and one of the most contemptible politicians, now Jimmy Carter has decided to pile on the hapless clueless president. Power Line has the story. Will somebody please put Jimmah in a home where he can’t be interviewed?

When Jimmy Carter starts criticizing your foreign policy as weak and indecisive, you are getting to the bottom of the barrel. Jimmy unloaded on Barack Obama yesterday:

Former President Jimmy Carter is criticizing President Barack Obama’s Middle East policy, saying he has shifting policies and waited too long to take action against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

In an interview published Tuesday in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the 39th president said the Obama administration, by not acting sooner, allowed ISIL to build up its strength.

Carter said Obama’s air campaign against ISIL in Iraq has “a possibility of success,” provided that some troops are available on the ground. He did not specify whether he meant U.S. or other ground forces.

The former Democratic president and Georgia governor also said the president has shifted his Middle East policy on several occasions.

When you’ve lost Jimmy “Boots on the Ground” Carter, whom haven’t you lost? That’s got to be a short list. …



Peter Wehner has presidential sized worries.

… What is worth paying increasing attention to, I think, is the emotional state of the president. It’s in front of his donors that his most authentic feelings seem to surface, and it’s clear he’s becoming increasingly isolated, embittered, and thin skinned. His excuse making is now chronic and habitual. He’s even displaying some signs of paranoia. Everyone is against him.

Obama is becoming Nixonian.

The man who by a wide margin has received the most worshipful press coverage in at least the last half-century is complaining that the press is mistreating him. A president who routinely misleads the public on matters large and small, who first ran for president on the promise of unifying America but governs based on dividing it, and who allows the most important national-security matters to be decided by crass political considerations is blaming others for feeding cynicism. …



Ron Fournier writes on Panetta and his book.

It’s uncanny how the former CIA/Pentagon chief’s memoir and book-tour interviews channel the frustrations of Democrats who want the president to succeed but consider him a near-failure, who raised their concerns directly with the president or with his team, and were told to stop their worrying.

Actually, the White House calls it “bed-wetting.” Team Obama is dismissive of anybody who dares to say the emperor may need some clothes. Mocked and/or ignored by the White House, these Democrats send messages through journalists.

Not Panetta. He wrote a book. …


… In a column called, “Will the president listen to Leon Panetta?” Balz also urged the president and his team to “take to heart the critique from someone who has served both this president and the country loyally for many years.” I can’t imagine they will. Nor do most Democrats in this town have much hope for an outbreak of humility at the White House.

It starts with the president—this inability to accept criticism and learn from it—and so Obama seems destined to leave office no more comfortable or competent with the vague arts of leadership than he was six years ago.



Peggy Noonan gives the whip to Panetta.

… this book is smugly, grubbily partisan. Republicans aren’t bright and never good, though some— Bob Dole comes up—are reasonable. Republicans presidents tend to be weak or care only for the rich. He really, really hates Newt Gingrich . His headline on the entire Reagan era: “Poverty spread and deepened during the Reagan years.” Under Bill Clinton “the economy boomed,” “poverty shrunk,” and “leadership matters.” Reagan, in fairness, was less terrible than Mr. Panetta expected, “less ideological and partisan.” Mr. Clinton is “ravenously intelligent.” Mr. Panetta lauds Mr. Clinton’s “astonishing ability to sift through facts” and his “empathy for average people.” The compliments are at once lackeyish and patronizing.

In the epilogue Mr. Panetta seems to catch himself and writes, dictates or edits in the thought that he does not mean “to suggest that Democrats are good and Republicans are bad.” But that is what he repeatedly suggests.

Here’s what is disturbing: to think this is one of Washington’s wise men.

Here’s what’s true. At 76, at the end of a half-century-long, richly rewarded career, with perspective having presumably been gained and smallness washed away, in a book of history and reflection written at a time of high national peril, a lack of political graciousness, and the continued presence of a dumb and grinding partisanship, is unattractive to the point of unseemly. …

… Some say he wrote the book to help detach Hillary Clinton ’s fortunes from those of Mr. Obama. Maybe, but Mr. Panetta is savvy, shrewd and quick to see where things are going. I suspect he’s trying to detach his entire party’s fortunes from Mr. Obama. Reading this book and considering its timing, you get the impression that’s the real worthy battle on his mind.



Ed Morrissey says the president’s problems are all of his own creation.

… When the improvements don’t materialize, Presidents tend to start looking for new talent. Bush’s surge strategy was preceded by the resignation of the unpopular Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and crafted by his replacement Robert Gates. Cabinet members and White House staffers are almost always expendable when the boss needs a boost, a way to signal a change of direction that implies a shift in blame to those departing. 

Barack Obama is in trouble now, but in part because the opposite has happened. Gates and his successor Leon Panetta, both widely respected across the political spectrum, have published memoirs of their years in the Obama administration, and they have spared no feelings with their former commander in chief. 

Combined with a somewhat milder rebuke from Hillary Clinton’s memoirs, we have the unusual specter of having three members of the president’s national-security team blaming Obama for not listening to their advice on national security while the President is still in office. …



John Steele Gordon spots hypocrisy.

“If Republicans win, we know who they’ll be fighting for,” President Obama said on Tuesday. “Once again, the interests of billionaires will come before the needs of the middle class.”

Where did he say it? According to the New York Post, in the hyper-exclusive Conyers Farm area of very upscale Greenwich, Connecticut. Conyers Farm has ten-acre zoning. He was speaking at a fundraiser at the $26-million estate of a man named, believe it or not, Rich Richman. His audience consisted of people who had paid up to $32,400 a head to have dinner with him. He had flown up from New York City, where he had earlier attended a fundraiser hosted by George Soros (net worth $24 billion) and Paul Tudor Jones (net worth $4.3 billion). The flight was in a convoy of four helicopters and they landed at the Greenwich Polo Club. Polo, of course, is the most expensive sport you can play on land. (A polo field measures 300 by 160 yards, bigger than nine football fields.)

So the president was telling a bunch of millionaires and billionaires to pony up in order to prevent the country from being run for the benefit of millionaires and billionaires, the one segment of the American socioeconomic spectrum that has prospered exceedingly during the Obama administration.

And politicians wonder why people don’t like them or trust them.



Jonah Goldberg on the Columbian hooker kerfuffle and why the white house lied.

In news that must have left my friends at the New York Post — never mind the gang at The Daily Show – with a renewed confidence that ours is a just and beneficent God, the White House has been caught covering up a scandal involving a Cartagena hooker.

The phrase “Cartagena hooker” alone is a mellifluous gift to ink-stained wretches everywhere, but the revelation that the White House reassigned the alleged client of the aforementioned Andean call girl to the State Department’s office of “Global Women’s Issues” is the sort of flourish Tom Wolfe or Chris Buckley wouldn’t dare attempt as satire. …

… The underlying scandal is fairly minor. But if the White House would falsify records and lie to the public about this, is it really so hard to imagine that it would deceive the public – and Congress – about larger issues like, say, Benghazi? (Just this week, former Obama secretary of defense Leon Panetta told Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly that the infamous White House talking points on the attack were essentially bogus.)

But it also speaks to the seedy way Obama talks about politics generally. The president loves to denounce a cynical system where politics comes before the public good. He rails about a system where fat cats live by a different set of rules than the little guy, and money buys special treatment and access. But the way he operates runs completely counter to all that. Which is why the only person to come out of this scandal in an honorable light is the Cartagena hooker.



Ron Fournier too. 

I don’t have a strong opinion on Colombian hookers. The after-hours wonts of a 25-year-old White House volunteer make no difference to me. There are bigger stories better suited for the word “scandal” than the 2012 drinking-and-carousing embarrassment that cost 10 Secret Service agents their jobs.

But I don’t like government cover-ups, favoritism, and nepotism—all of which are exposed in the latest Washington Post investigation of the U.S. Secret Service. The story by Carol D. Leonnig and David Nakamura (“White House Knew of Possible Tie to Cartagena”) also hints at a rift between the president’s political and security teams that makes me worry about the safety of Barack Obama and future presidents.

“As nearly two dozen Secret Service agents and members of the military were punished or fired following a 2012 prostitution scandal in Colombia, Obama administration officials repeatedly denied that anyone from the White House was involved.

But new details drawn from government documents and interviews show that senior White House aides were given information at the time suggesting that a prostitute was an overnight guest in the hotel room of a presidential advance-team member—yet that information was never thoroughly investigated or publicly acknowledged.” …


The cartoonists are good today.

October 12, 2014

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Mark Steyn juxtaposes the nonchalant admittance to our country of an immigrant who would never leave, to harsh growling of the bureaucrats for the innocents abroad.

Thomas Eric Duncan has the distinction of being America’s Patient Zero – the first but not the last person to develop Ebola symptoms in the United States.

Is he a US citizen? No, he’s Liberian.

Is he a resident of the United States? No, he landed at Washington’s DullesAirport on September 20th, in order to visit his sister and having quit his job in Monrovia a few weeks earlier.

So he’s a single unemployed man with relatives in the US and no compelling reason to return to his native land. That alone is supposed to be cause for immigration scrutiny. …

… The legendary Gord Sinclair, longtime news director of CJAD in Montreal, had a ski place near the town of Jay in northern Vermont, and he invited his engineer on the show to come down and visit him. “What’s the purpose of your visit?” asked the agent at the small rural border post.

“Oh, just a relaxing weekend at my boss’ place,” said Gord’s colleague affably, and then chortled, “although I don’t know if it’ll be that relaxing. He’ll probably have me out in the yard chopping wood all day.”

So the immigration agent refused him entry on the grounds that he would be working illegally in the United States. …



Matthew Continetti, after reviewing the actions of our government, says it might be time to panic.

Deadly, irrational, and determined, the intruder snuck across a weakened perimeter. Eluding capture, the intruder was detained only after missteps and close calls. The spin began soon after the threat was isolated. Information was selectively leaked. Half-truths and untruths were uttered. Responsibility was avoided; privileges and credentials asserted; authority reasserted. Trust us. Remain calm. Don’t panic.

This is the template of recent events. A mental case jumps the White House fence. He makes it to the East Room before he’s tackled by an off-duty Secret Service agent. Initial statements turn out to be misleading or false. We discover that lapses in security are much worse than previously understood, that in recent memory the White House was sprayed with bullets, and that an armed man with a criminal record rode in an elevator with the president. The official in charge of the Secret Service, promoted for reasons of affirmative action, resigns hours after the White House expresses its confidence in her abilities. The overriding impression is of disarray, confusion, bad management, failed communication, anomie, disillusion, corruption, and secrecy. But do not worry. Things are under control.

The elevator? It was in the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, where the president told the American people that the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is not a threat to our country. President Obama said the chances of Ebola appearing in the United States are “extremely low.” If a carrier somehow finds his way to the 50 states, “We have world-class facilities and professionals ready to respond. And we have effective surveillance mechanisms in place.” Two weeks later, as Byron York points out, the president was proven utterly wrong.



In a WSJ OpEd, a climate scientist suggests much of the globalony worries have been overwrought.

At the recent United Nations Climate Summit, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned that “Without significant cuts in emissions by all countries, and in key sectors, the window of opportunity to stay within less than 2 degrees [of warming] will soon close forever.” Actually, this window of opportunity may remain open for quite some time. A growing body of evidence suggests that the climate is less sensitive to increases in carbon-dioxide emissions than policy makers generally assume—and that the need for reductions in such emissions is less urgent.

According to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, preventing “dangerous human interference” with the climate is defined, rather arbitrarily, as limiting warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial temperatures. The Earth’s surface temperatures have already warmed about 0.8 degrees Celsius since 1850-1900. This leaves 1.2 degrees Celsius (about 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit) to go.

In its most optimistic projections, which assume a substantial decline in emissions, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projects that the “dangerous” level might never be reached. In its most extreme, pessimistic projections, which assume heavy use of coal and rapid population growth, the threshold could be exceeded as early as 2040. But these projections reflect the effects of rising emissions on temperatures simulated by climate models, which are being challenged by recent observations. …



We learn from Fiscal Times another area subjected to white house lies was the student loan default rate.

Eager to broadcast some good news approaching the midterm elections, the Obama administration recently announced a welcome dip in student loan defaults, from 14.7 percent for the 2010 cohort (loans taken out in that year) to 13.7 percent for 2011. Policymakers, alarmed about how our trillion-dollar student loan burden and soaring default rates are undermining our economic growth, cheered the report.

Unfortunately, it turns out the numbers are bogus.  

In keeping with a White House that talks a good game on transparency but that is cloaked in secrecy, the Department of Education moved the goalposts at the last minute, changing how the default rates were calculated and thus sparing some colleges from tough penalties. It has so far refused to say which schools were given a reprieve, though it appears likely that black colleges were the major beneficiaries.

The academic world has been anxiously awaiting the Department of Education’s annual announcement on student loan defaults. As of this year, schools with three consecutive years of default rates above 30 percent (or one year above 40 percent) will risk losing federal financial aid. The review was expected to clobber the for-profit sector, but also to penalize some smaller schools characterized by higher-then-average student borrowing, such as numerous members of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, or HBCU. Last year 14 colleges in that organization had default rates above 30 percent. …



Wired tells us why the Nobel such a big deal and where it come from.  

The Nobel Prize is a big deal. Want to know how I know? Because the Nobels are constantly invoked to signal the importance of other awards: The Turing Award is the “Nobel Prize of Computers,” the Pritzker Prize is the “Nobel Prize of Architecture,” …

… It all began with a journalistic error. In 1888, a French newspaper mistakenly wrote that Alfred Nobel, inventor of dynamite, had died. It was actually his brother, Ludvig, who had passed. But, in addition to lackluster fact checking, the paper commemorated the event with defamatory prose: “Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday,” it wrote. Nobel, it is said, was crushed by the idea that he’d be remembered as a “merchant of death.” In order to regain control of his legacy, he willed his fortune to create an award that would recognize people who had made positive contributions to mankind. …



Max Boot celebrates deserving Nobel Peace Prize recipients.

The Nobel Peace Prize was easy to lampoon even before Barack Obama won the award at the start of his presidency for doing essentially nothing beyond giving a few grandiose speeches. …

… Some of the recipients have actually been warmongers, most notably North Vietnamese Foreign Minister Le Duc Tho and Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat. ,,, 

… But occasionally the Nobel committee gets it right—usually once a decade or so. This is one of those times, with the award going to Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan and Kailash Satyarthi of India. …



Late night humor from Andrew Malcolm.

Fallon: Chelsea Clinton’s new baby girl Charlotte has already said her first word: “Iowa.”

Conan: The NFL has announced the possible sites for its 2015 draft have been reduced to two. It’s either RikersIsland or San Quentin.

Fallon: Joe Biden was in Iowa recently. He spent two days there — one campaigning and another stuck in a corn maze.

Meyers: Vladimir Putin’s 62d birthday was the other day. When he got his presents he said, “You didn’t have to get me anything, I could have just taken it.”