April 2, 2015

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Canada geese are invading the DC’s National Mall. Kevin Williamson writes on the antidote – border collies. We have the humor section first today. Late night humor follows.

… If there is to be a plague of goose poop befouling an American city, it really could not happen to a more fitting municipality than our hideous national capital, and especially to the gallery of architectural malpractice and monumental grotesquery that is the National Mall, that eternal testament to the unfinished work of Major General Robert Ross, who had the good taste to put Washington to the torch but who tragically failed to salt the earth on his way out. …

… The obvious question here — or at least the first thing I wondered about — is: Where do the all those border collies come from? We have a national strategic petroleum reserve and, hilariously enough, a national strategic helium reserve — in case we ever decide that we want to make all those Boko Haram throat-cutters talk like Alvin the Chipmunk — so it is not beyond all conception that we have a national strategic border collie reserve, too. I am sorry to report that my inquiries to the Department of the Interior late last week regarding this critical national resource went unanswered. But I will stay on the story.

In the United States, we have public debts and unfunded-entitlement liabilities equal to the value of all the stocks trading on all the world’s stock markets — combined and multiplied by three. We are beset by the very real possibility of atomic ayatollahs engaging in casual nuclear war — not only in the Middle East, but possibly also in Europe, in Asia, and, given the state of our border security, right here. We have a crime syndicate in charge of the Internal Revenue Service, and a Department of Homeland Security that can’t stop millions of people from crossing the border illegally but does an absolutely awesome job of making sure that you do not bring more than 3.4 ounces of Sensodyne onto an airplane. We have record numbers of people pushed into dependency on an ever-proliferating variety of welfare programs. Washington responds to this array of existential threats with the urgent dynamism and focus of Jabba the Hutt on a glitterstim bender.

But an anatid from up north drops a deuce on the site of the John F. Kennedy Memorial Field Hockey Tournament — “the oldest field hockey tournament in the United States,” hurrah! — and Leviathan arises from his dreamy slumber. Really, given what we know about Washington and how it works, can you blame the birds?

Canada geese: Doing jobs American voters won’t do.

 

 

Andrew Malcolm has late night humor.

Conan: A new app is out that helps find missing dogs using facial recognition technology. There’s also a companion app for dogs to find their owners using crotch-recognition technology.

Meyers: In a new video, a lion at a South African safari park has reportedly learned how to open the doors on tour jeeps. The video was taken with an iPhone recovered from the stomach of a lion in South Africa.

 

Thomas Sowell writes on who is trashing the liberal arts. 

An op-ed piece titled “Conservatives, Please Stop Trashing the Liberal Arts” appeared last week in the Wall Street Journal. But it is not conservatives who trashed the liberal arts.

Liberal professors have trashed the liberal arts, by converting so many liberal arts courses into indoctrination centers for left-wing causes and fads, instead of courses where students learn how to weigh conflicting views of the world for themselves. Now a professor of English, one of the most fad-ridden of the liberal arts today, blames conservative critics for the low esteem in which liberal arts are held.

Surely a professor of English cannot be unaware of how English departments, especially, have become hotbeds of self-indulgent, trendy fads such as trashing classic writings — using Shakespeare’s works as just another ideological playground for romping through with the current mantra of “race, class and gender.”

Surely he cannot be unaware of the many farces of the Modern Language Association that have made headlines. And when our English professor uses a phrase like “critical thinking,” he must be at least dimly aware of how often those words have been perverted to mean uncritical negativism toward traditional values and uncritical acceptance of glittering catchwords of the left, such as “diversity.” …

 

 

Speaking of the farce on many college campuses, The Economist cover story is on more money spent on education with less to show for it.

… If America were getting its money’s worth from higher education, that would be fine. On the research side, it probably is. In 2014, 19 of the 20 universities in the world that produced the most highly cited research papers were American. But on the educational side, the picture is less clear. American graduates score poorly in international numeracy and literacy rankings, and are slipping. In a recent study of academic achievement, 45% of American students made no gains in their first two years of university. Meanwhile, tuition fees have nearly doubled, in real terms, in 20 years. Student debt, at nearly $1.2 trillion, has surpassed credit-card debt and car loans.

None of this means that going to university is a bad investment for a student. A bachelor’s degree in America still yields, on average, a 15% return. But it is less clear whether the growing investment in tertiary education makes sense for society as a whole. If graduates earn more than non-graduates because their studies have made them more productive, then university education will boost economic growth and society should want more of it. Yet poor student scores suggest otherwise. So, too, does the testimony of employers. A recent study of recruitment by professional-services firms found that they took graduates from the most prestigious universities not because of what the candidates might have learned but because of those institutions’ tough selection procedures. In short, students could be paying vast sums merely to go through a very elaborate sorting mechanism.

If America’s universities are indeed poor value for money, why might that be? The main reason is that the market for higher education, like that for health care, does not work well. The government rewards universities for research, so that is what professors concentrate on. Students are looking for a degree from an institution that will impress employers; employers are interested primarily in the selectivity of the institution a candidate has attended. Since the value of a degree from a selective institution depends on its scarcity, good universities have little incentive to produce more graduates. And, in the absence of a clear measure of educational output, price becomes a proxy for quality. By charging more, good universities gain both revenue and prestige. …

 

 

We have been unrelenting during the past years including items about the coming student loan disaster. The Huffington Post reported that delinquencies are much higher than the government has previously reported. The government has lied to us? Who could have seen that coming?  

About one-third of borrowers with federal student loans owned by the U.S. Department of Education are late on their payments, according to new federal data.

The figures, released by the Education Department on Thursday, are the first comprehensive look at the delinquency plaguing those who hold federal student loans. By the new metric, which the department has never used before, roughly 33 percent of borrowers were more than five days late on one of their federal student loans as of Dec. 31. (Since the department only released individual figures for its four largest contractors, rather than a total percentage, however, the actual figure may be a few percentage points higher or lower.)

Previous measures had put the delinquency rate much lower, masking the true amount of distress among borrowers trying to make good on their taxpayer-backed debts.

Some 41 million Americans collectively carry more than $1.1 trillion in education loans owned or guaranteed by the Education Department, a total that surpasses every form of consumer credit in the U.S. except home mortgages. Thursday’s figure reflects more than two-thirds of the $1.1 trillion total. The remainder is owned by the private sector as part of a bank-based federal loan program that has since been discontinued.

The new measure of borrower distress comes as the White House urges the Education Department to improve its management of the growing federal student loan program and to give borrowers more protections against unmanageable debt loads.

In recent years, groups ranging from federal financial regulators and Federal Reserve policymakers to chief executives of banks and other industry groups have warned about the increasing risk that student debt poses to U.S. economic growth, noting that debt burdens are sapping households’ purchasing power amid an era of stagnant inflation-adjusted wages. …

 

 

WSJ Reviews say the new Samsung Galaxy phone is a good competitor for the iPhone.

In this unpredictable world, it’s the constants in life that I can count on.

The sun rises in the East, Starbucks lattes always taste the same, and Apple’s iPhones are always better than Samsung’s Galaxy phones.

Since the dawn of the smartphone wars, there have been basic truths about Samsungs: They’re made of flimsy plastic, their cameras can’t keep up with the iPhone’s, and their modified Android software is ugly and intolerably cluttered.

With the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge, which arrive at U.S. carriers on April 10, none of that is true anymore. I am not afraid to say it: I love Samsung’s new phones, maybe even more than my own iPhone 6. Like a child who just found out that Santa isn’t real, I have spent the past week questioning everything I know.

OK, maybe that’s a bit dramatic for smartphones, but I’m serious about how drastic the change is. Samsung has taken direct aim at Apple’s smartphone, this time even seeming to copy some of the iPhone’s design and features.

No, neither of the new Galaxys brings any original ideas to the evolution of the smartphone. If anything, Samsung has actually sucked out the differentiators, including the waterproof design and removable storage and battery. And Samsung still needs some schooling in the software department.

Yet with a series of improvements, the Galaxy now has a leg up on the hardware of other Android phones and the iPhone. It’s got me, a once extremely satisfied iPhone 6 owner, wishing for a better screen, sharper camera and faster charging. …

 

 

And, piercing another balloon, NY Times says fish oil claims are not supported by research. 

Fish oil is now the third most widely used dietary supplement in the United States, after vitamins and minerals, according to a recent report from the National Institutes of Health. At least 10 percent of Americans take fish oil regularly, most believing that the omega-3 fatty acids in the supplements will protect their cardiovascular health.

But there is one big problem: The vast majority of clinical trials involving fish oil have found no evidence that it lowers the risk of heart attack and stroke.

From 2005 to 2012, at least two dozen rigorous studies of fish oil were published in leading medical journals, most of which looked at whether fish oil could prevent cardiovascular events in high-risk populations. These were people who had a history of heart disease or strong risk factors for it, like high cholesterol, hypertension or Type 2 diabetes.

All but two of these studies found that compared with a placebo, fish oil showed no benefit.

And yet during this time, sales of fish oil more than doubled, not just in the United States but worldwide, said Andrew Grey, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Auckland in New Zealand and the author of a 2014 study on fish oil in JAMA Internal Medicine.

“There’s a major disconnect,” Dr. Grey said. “The sales are going up despite the progressive accumulation of trials that show no effect.” …

April 1, 2015

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We have another look at Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew. This time from John Fund. Fund says there is much to copy in Yew’s economic success, but not so much in the political sphere.

… It’s no wonder that other countries constantly consult Singapore for guidance on how to turbo-charge their economies. In 2011, Ghana’s vice president, John Dramani Mahama, told a visiting delegation from Singapore that his country “takes a lot of inspiration from Singapore in their economic transformation from a third- into a first-world country.”

There is less to emulate from Singapore’s brand of politics. As Frank Lavin, a former U.S. ambassador to Singapore from 2001 to 2005, notes: “Lee believed that open politics can lead to demagoguery, rent-seeking, and short-term thinking. Yet over time, Singapore did become more open, allowing for both political debate and contested elections. . . . Of Lee’s many successes, his most important legacy might be the move to that more open political system to complement the open economics.”

But from my visit there, I believe that the least appreciated part of Lee Kwan Yew’s legacy is his method of ensuring that one generation won’t bankrupt future generations by selfishly living beyond its means. It’s a welfare state that works, and one he always said was available to any political leader with the courage to tell his people the truth about the limits of government’s power to pass out goodies.

 

 

Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit writes on growing number of crimes that can be inadvertently committed.

Ignorance of the law, we are often told, is no excuse. “Every man is presumed to know the law,” says a long-established legal aphorism. And if you are charged with a crime, you would be well advised to rely on some other defense than “I had no idea that was illegal.”

But not everybody favors this state of affairs. While a century or two ago nearly all crime was traditional common-law crime — rape, murder, theft and other things that pretty much everyone should know are bad — nowadays we face all sorts of “regulatory crimes” in which intuitions of right and wrong play no role, but for which the penalties are high.

If you walk down the sidewalk, pick up a pretty feather, and take it home, you could be a felon — if it happens to be a bald eagle feather. Bald eagles are plentiful now, and were taken off the endangered species list years ago, but the federal law making possession of them a crime for most people is still on the books, and federal agents are even infiltrating some Native-American powwows in order to find and arrest people. (And feathers from lesser-known birds, like the red-tailed hawk are also covered). Other examples abound, from getting lost in a storm and snowmobiling on the wrong bit of federal land, to diverting storm sewer water around a building.

“Regulatory crimes” of this sort are incredibly numerous and a category that is growing quickly. They are the ones likely to trap unwary individuals into being felons without knowing it. …

 

 

The failure of the left to make us care about their bogus climate change claims is covered by David Harsanyi

If you want to understand why so many Democrats believe it’s okay to circumvent Congress and let international agreements dictate environmental policies—well, other than their newfound respect for monocracy—you don’t have to look much farther than the new poll by Gallup.

Since 1989, there’s been no significant change in the public’s concern level over global warming. To put this in perspective, note that the most expensive public-relations campaign in history—one that includes most governmental agencies, a long list of welfare-sucking corporations, the public school system, the universities, an infinite parade of celebrities, think tanks, well-funded environmental groups and an entire major political party—has, over the past 25 years or so, increased the number of Democrats who “worry greatly” about global warming by a mere four percentage points.

During this era, they’ve gone from gentle nudging to stern warnings, to fearmongering, to conflating the predictive abilities of scientists with science itself, to launching ugly campaigns to shame and shut down anyone who deviates from liberal orthodoxy—which includes not only the existence of anthropogenic global warming, but an entire ideological framework that supposedly “addresses” the problem.

And considering the absurd amount of media this crusade continues to garner, its ineffectiveness is doubly amazing. The Government Accounting Office hasn’t been able to calculate the theoretical benefits of the billions we spend each year battling climate change (one theory: they don’t exist). Can one imagine how it difficult it would be to tabulate what hundreds of millions spent on indoctrination bought us? The return is pitiful. And completely foreseeable. …

 

 

Last week on the 24th and 25th we included some items on the collapse of families, both black and white. We have more today with this from the National Review; “Why Won’t Liberals Talk about the Most Important Kind of ‘Privilege’ in America?” The ‘privilege the authors are referring to is marriage.

Much has been written about privilege in academic settings over the past few decades. There’s the privilege of wealth, and the advantages wealth confers if a baby is lucky enough to be born into it. Much too has been written about the advantages of being born into this world as a Caucasian — known in academia as “white privilege.”

But not enough has been written about the most important advantage a baby can have in America: the advantage of being born with a mother and father who happen to be married. Call it “the marriage privilege” — the advantages are startling.

In a report last year entitled “Saving Horatio Alger,” which focused on social mobility and class in America, Richard Reeves of the Brookings Institution discovered that the likelihood of a child raised by parents born into the lowest income quintile moving to the top quintile by the age 40 was a disastrous 3 percent. Worse, 50 percent of those children stay stuck in the bottom quintile. And the outlook for the children of those marriage-less children is equally stark.

That’s bad news for the country, and the American dream, such numbers.

But Reeves discovered a silver lining while crunching the data: Those children born in the lowest quintile to parents who were married and stayed married had only a 19 percent chance of remaining in the bottom income group.

Reeve’s study revealed that this social-mobility advantage applied not just to the lower class: The middle class was impacted, too. The study revealed that children born into the middle class have a mere 11 percent chance of ending up in the bottom economic quintile with married parents, but that number rises to 38 percent if their parents are never married.

You’d think a finding like that would be headline news across the nation, or that the media might want to talk about the real reason for the wealth gap in America — the marriage gap. …

 

 

More from Michael Barone.

Christmastime is an occasion for families to come together. But the family is not what it used to be, as my former American Enterprise Institute colleague Nick Schulz argues in his short AEI book Home Economics: The Consequences of Changing Family Structure.

It’s a subject that many people are uncomfortable with. “Everyone either is or knows and has a deep personal connection to someone who is divorced, cohabiting, or gay,” Schulz writes. “Great numbers of people simply want to avoid awkward talk of what are seen as primarily personal issues or issues of individual morality.”

Nonetheless, it is an uncomfortable truth that children of divorce and children with unmarried parents tend to do much worse in life than children of two-parent families. (I’ll leave aside the sensitive issue of children of same-sex marriages because these haven’t existed in a non-stigmatized atmosphere long enough to produce measurable results.)

As Schulz points out, that uncomfortable truth is not controversial among social scientists. It is affirmed by undoubted liberals such as Harvard’s David Ellwood and Christopher Jencks. …

March 31, 2015

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We continue examining the detritus left in the wake of decisions by Empty Suit. The desertion charges against Bergdahl and the collapse of the government in Yemen are two current examples of the results of his foolishness.

 

 

Tom Bevan is first on Bergdahl.

Travel back with me, dear reader, to a magical and sunny time. It was only 10 months ago, on a glorious June morning when President Obama called the White House press corps together in the Rose Garden. There, our smiling president proudly announced that the United States had secured the release of an American serviceman held captive in Afghanistan for five years.

Flanked by the grateful parents of returning Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the president lauded his administration’s “ironclad commitment to bring our prisoners of war home.”

The soldier’s father, Bob Bergdahl, read a prayer; the young man’s mother, Jani, hugged the president. It was a story that could please all Americans: parenthood (quite properly) trumping partisanship.

Yet even as White House image-makers touted the picture of a concerned commander-in-chief looking out for the troops, a nagging bit of foreshadowing interjected itself into the narrative. For starters, the senior Bergdahl’s prayer was delivered in Arabic and began with a blessing from the Koran. While his son was in captivity Bob Bergdahl had grown his hair and beard long, Taliban-style, and now he also sprinkled his remarks from the White House lectern with a few words of Pashto, the language of Bowe Bergdahl’s captors.

More disconcerting still were the terms of the deal securing the soldier’s release, which the president referred to only fleetingly. …

 

 

The Daily Beast says “everything the White House told you about Bowe Bergdahl was wrong.”

His release was supposed to be the political masterstroke in the last days of the war. But the war is still going, and Bergdahl is going to court.

In the space of nine months, he went from being heralded at the White House to facing prison for life.

On Wednesday, the U.S. military charged Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, the former Taliban captive who was freed in exchange for five GuantanamoBay detainees, with desertion and misbehaving before the enemy.

His capture, release and now charge became a parable of how narratives about the war in Afghanistan did not pan out. The soldier whose service Susan Rice, U.S. national security adviser, once characterized as “honorable” and whose release came at the price of five prisoners could now himself end up in an American prison for life. The prison exchange that some political operatives thought would be heralded was instead widely condemned. And the war that was supposed to be ending with no soldier left behind has now been extended for five months.

Bergdahl’s case will now go before an Article 32 hearing, the equivalent of a grand jury in civilian court, to determine how the case should proceed. …

 

 

Jonah Goldberg has a great take on the Bergdahl flap. Later his post morphs into a discussion of the disaster in Yemen.

What I find interesting about the Bergdahl story is that it is the quintessential Obama fiasco. If you were compiling a checklist of all the things that drive conservatives crazy — and by conservatives I basically mean people who are (a) paying attention and (b) not enthralled in the Obama cult of personality — the Bergdahl story would achieve a near-perfect score.

The Obama M.O. remains remarkably consistent. He announces some initiative, policy, or presidential action. The public rationale for the move is always rhetorically grounded in some deep, universally shared principle, even if the real agenda is something far more ideological or partisan. The facts driving the decision are never as the White House presents them. Indeed, the more confident the White House appears to be about the facts, the more likely it is they’re playing games with them.

Sometimes the facts are simply made up. There are millions of “shovel ready jobs” right around the corner! “You can keep your doctor!” The Benghazi attack was “about a video!” “One in five women are raped!” “The Islamic State isn’t Islamic!” …

 

… Using the above criteria, the Bergdahl story is quintessential Obama.

Invoking high-minded principle? Check!

Really motivated by partisan and ideological agenda? Check!

Made-up facts? Check!

Critics denounced as partisan ideologues opposed to high-minded principle? Check!

Group-think-driven White House’s failure to anticipate the political downsides? Check!

Flagrant contempt for Congress and its laws? Check!

The high-minded-principle part is obvious. We leave no one behind. Who can disagree with that?

But it was obvious long ago that Obama had other priorities in mind. “It could be a huge win if Obama could bring him home,” a senior administration official told Rolling Stone in a 2012 piece on Bergdahl. “Especially in an election year, if it’s handled properly.”

The other major priority was to use the marching band and fireworks celebration of Bergdahl’s return to hasten the shuttering of Gitmo. Dump the worst of the worst anywhere you can and the political rationale for keeping the place open evaporates. So trading five hardened Taliban commanders for one deserter was a win-win.

Then there’s the thumbless grasp of political reality. Maybe the president didn’t think going AWOL was that big a deal. Maybe he thought it was understandable. Maybe he assumed everyone shared his take on things. Maybe he thought he could just bluster through because the American people are idiots. Who knows?

The fact remains they knew Bergdahl had been AWOL and yet still thought this would be a clear-cut “huge win,” particularly in the context of winding down the War in Afghanistan. They had no idea this fiasco would blow up in their faces, though I like to think some of the savvier political operatives on the Obama team had at least a moment of doubt when they saw Bergdahl’s dad show up with his Johnny Taliban beard. When the elder Bergdahl started speaking Arabic and Pashto in the Rose Garden, I like to imagine that David Axelrod’s bowels stewed just a little bit. (Every political pro I know who watched that announcement responded pretty much the same way you or I would if we saw a polar bear pooping a live hamster on a bus made of graham crackers; “What the Hell am I looking at?”) …

 

 

Peter Wehner thinks the real motivation was to free five terrorists from Gitmo.

… But what made this particular case even more problematic is that Bergdahl was freed in exchange for five high-value Taliban figures who had been held captive in GuantanamoBay. As several outlets and individuals have pointed out, getting back a soldier who was almost certainly a deserter was simply a pretext. The main goal of President Obama is to empty GuantanamoBay. It is something the president declared he wanted to do during his first day in office and it’s something he is committed to doing before his last day in office. Swapping Bergdahl for five Taliban leaders–several of whom are trying to return to the battlefield so they can kill more Americans–was the convenient (if explosively contentious) excuse. The Wall Street Journal reminds us that Mr. Obama told NBC that emptying Gitmo “is going to involve, on occasion, releasing folks who we may not trust but we can’t convict.”

So we have a president with at least two obsessions: One of them is attacking the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and weakening the Jewish State of Israel; the second is to empty GuantanamoBay and release terrorists committed to killing as many Americans as possible.

We’ve never seen anything quite like this president.

 

 

Walter Russell Mead posts on our “comprehensive failure” in Yemen.

Over the weekend, several C-17 transport planes transported a reported 350 U.S. Special Operations forces out of Yemen as the country stood on the precipice of civil war. The Wall Street Journal has a trenchant summary of just how President Obama’s policy has gone up in smoke:

What happened in Yemen, according to descriptions by current and former officials and experts, was a miscalculation about the changes unleashed by the Arab Spring revolutions. It involved an overreliance by Washington on a promising new leader who ultimately was unable to hold off rival forces and tensions, they said.

As a result, a country President Barack Obama last year cited as a model of American counterterrorism success has now descended into chaos, with U.S. influence and drone strikes no match for at least four sides at war with one another.

 

 

Jennifer Rubin posts on the presser where Josh Earnest continued to pretend Yemen is a “template that has succeeded.”

… Josh Earnest had his talking point and was sticking with it (just like the talking point that Obama meant what he said when he called the shooting of innocents in a French kosher market “random”). For over three minutes Earnest refused to acknowledge their model was not a mess. Pressed again, he insisted this is still a “template that has succeeded.” An incredulous Jonathan Karl of ABC News continued to press him, but Earnest refused to admit the obvious, namely that the administration had failed in its leading from behind, light footprint.

It was embarrassing and unbelievable. But it was also instructive. The administration is failing as far as the eye can see. Iraq and Syria are infested with jihadists from the Islamic State. The civil war in Syria has killed 200,000 and, because of our failure to come to their aid in a timely and effective manner, the Free Syrian Army is in dismal shape. Iran is pulling the strings in Syria, Yemen and Lebanon while its fighters are doing what we will not, combating the Islamic State in Iraq. Our Sunni allies and Israel are exasperated with our passivity and willingness to appease Iran. The “peace process” is a joke. So the president bashes our closest ally and tells us Yemen is a success.

Consider what would have happened if President George W. Bush refused to believe the Iraq War was going poorly, denied any strategy change was necessary and never implemented the surge. Ironically, critics accused him of being stubborn or cut off from reality. Right diagnosis, wrong president.

The administration at this point plainly has no regard for the facts or else no elementary judgment. When it comes to a monumental deal with Iran or a “shift” in U.S. policy toward Israel at the United Nations, it is becoming increasingly clear this crowd cannot be trusted. Congress must step in not only where Iran is concerned but also in demanding a coherent and accurate accounting of events. …

 

 

We close with Roger Simon, who always has a way of providing a telling summary of events. Roger wonders if President Petulant is the crazy pilot.

… Obama and his minions are huddled wherever they’re huddled, busy destroying the Western World with their bizarre policies and eagerness to make a deal with Iran that is so desperate it makes the word pathetic seem pathetic. The results of this desperation have been wretched, a fascistic new Persian Empire emerging from Libya to Yemen with Obama auditioning for the role of Cyrus the Great – or is it Ahmadinejad Junior? Whatever the case, it’s horrible  Even those same Democrats know it.  They’re embarrassed – and they should be.  But for the most part they don’t have the guts to say anything. This is the kind of administration that exchanges a creepy sociopath like Bergdahl for five Islamic homicidal maniacs and expects praise for being humanitarian.  And everyone walks away shaking their heads.

It’s hard to know why Obama is doing it all.  I know it sounds like a rude overstatement but in a way he reminds me of that crazy German pilot flying that plane into that alpine cliff, only the plane is us (America and the West).  Does he hate us all that much – or is it just Netanyahu?  Whatever the explanation, it’s mighty peculiar.  At this point almost no one  in the Congress appears to be backing him up – and yet he continues.  Who knows what will happen next?

 

The cartoonists have another field day.

March 30, 2015

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Streetwise Professor has the idea that the president is a cross between Nero and Captain Ahab.

The world spins into chaos, and Obama is so detached and indifferent, fiddling while it all burns. But maybe the comparison with Nero is unfair. To Nero. After all, Nero allegedly had a purpose in mind when burning Rome: it allowed him to bypass the Senate and rebuild Rome to his grandiose plans. (Bypassing the Senate . . . maybe there are more parallels than I thought!) Obama just appears to not want to be bothered. Or perhaps he is like Major Major Major Major, promoted well above his competence and knowing it, and retreating to the confines of his office and quarters in order to avoid confronting things he is incapable of solving.

Exhibit 1. Yemen is exploding, with Iranian-backed Houthis seizing power and the desperate Saudis striking back with air strikes. This obviously raises the possibility of conflict between the Saudis (and the rest of the GCC) and Iran. But the administration still defends the “Yemen model” as a success. No. Really. Spokesman “Josh Earnest” (that has to be a made up name, right?) says the concept of relying on foreign governments to fight terrorism is right, even though the government we relied on in this case has utterly collapsed.

Exhibit 2. Even though the tension between Russia and Nato is at Cold War levels; even though Russia is making nuclear threats against Nato members; even though the easternmost nations in Nato are increasingly anxious that Putin has them in his sights; even though there are doubts about the credibility of Section V of the Nato treaty; and even though Nato is struggling to find a way to respond to hybrid war, Obama is refusing to find time in his busy schedule to see the new head of Nato, Jens Stoltenberg. …

 

 

Jonah Goldberg is calling him Dr. Ignoro.

… While the White House claims that it cannot pretend Netanyahu didn’t make those remarks, it has no problem playing make-believe with comments from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (currently serving out the 10th year of his four-year term), who has repeatedly said the Palestinians will never recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Abbas, who literally has a Ph.D. in Holocaust denial, is what counts as a Palestinian moderate. Nonetheless, he formed a unity government with Hamas, the terrorist group openly determined to slaughter the Israelis.

But such facts are no match for Obama’s limitless powers to pretend away annoying details. Why, just last week, Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, responded to chants of “Death to America” by saying, “Of course, yes, death to America.” The White House is pretending he didn’t make such comments. And when the administration gets a deal with the Iranians on their nuclear program, the president will take it to the U.N., not the Senate, because ignoring Congress — and the Constitution — is simply what he does on days that end with “y.”

Barely six months ago, Obama cited Yemen as a great example of how successful his counterterrorism approach is. This week, as Yemen spiraled toward civil war and American military forces fled, Obama went golfing, ignoring the whole mess. (For Dr. Ignoro, the golf course is like his Batcave or Fortress of Solitude).

When his own advisers, military and civilian, warned Obama that fully bugging out of Iraq would be calamitous, leaving a vacuum for terrorists and Iranian meddling, the president ignored the advice and pretended everything was fine.

When a reporter for The New Yorker asked him about the Islamic State gobbling up Iraq, Obama explained why they should be ignored: They’re just a “jayvee team,” he said. …

 

 

Paul Mirengoff gets the back story of the faux outrage at Netanyahu from David Bernstein of Volokh Conspiracy.

… On March 6, less than two weeks before the election, a major Israeli newspaper published a document showing that Netanyahu’s envoy had agreed on his behalf to an American-proposed framework that offered substantial Israeli concessions that Netanyahu publicly opposed. Let’s put on our thinking caps. Where would this leak have come from? The most logical suspect is the American State Department.

So here’s the dynamic: Netanyahu, while talking tough publicly about terms for an Israeli-Palestinian deal, was much more accommodating privately during actual negotiations. Just before Israeli elections, the U.S. government likely leaks evidence of his flexibility to harm Netanyahu. As a result, Netanyahu starts to lose right-wing voters to smaller parties, and the left-leaning major opposition party takes a lead in the polls, putting Netanyahu’s leadership in question, just as the U.S. wanted.

Netanyahu responds by using increasingly right-wing rhetoric (including denying that he ever agreed to the framework in question), to win back the voters from smaller parties that the leak cost him. He wins, and almost immediately announces that his campaign rhetoric was misunderstood, and that he still supports a two-state solution when conditions allow. The Obama Administration then announces it nevertheless has to reassess relations with Israel, allegedly because Netanayahu is no longer committed to the two-state solution. …

 

 

Jonathan Tobin thinks it is time for the spiteful spat to end. 

A week has now passed since Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was re-elected in a decisive win that deeply disappointed the Obama administration that made no secret of its desire that he be defeated. But rather than cut its losses, the White House continues to dig itself in deeper in a conflict with the Israelis with an interview in which President Obama expressed concern for the future of Israeli democracy all the while making it clear that he would like to invalidate the verdict of Israeli voters. But that was not all. The president also sent his chief of staff to speak at the conference of the left-wing J Street lobby. There, James McDonough brought an audience of critics of Israel to its feet by vowing that the U.S. would not cease its efforts to force the Netanyahu government to “end 50 years of occupation.” All of this stoking the fires of conflict forces us to ask why the president is so invested in this effort. The answer isn’t reassuring, especially for those who wanted to believe the president’s 2012 re-election pitch that claimed he was a true friend of Israel.

As I noted yesterday, one motive for the conflict with Israel is the disagreement over the Iran nuclear negotiations. The president clearly is not willing to get past his anger about Netanyahu speaking to Congress in opposition to the deal that the U.S. is offering the Iranian regime. With the talks moving into their final stages, it seems likely that Iran will sign an accord, especially since, that country’s so-called “hard-liners” appear to be thrilled with the concessions that their nation has forced out of an Obama administration so fixated on its goal of détente with the Islamist regime that it is willing to retreat from every principle it went into the talks to defend. …

 

 

And Jennifer Rubin thinks the anti-Israel blitz has gone too far.

… The disparity between the president’s treatment of Israel and his rush to embrace our enemy is so evident that even the mainstream media are forced to acknowledge it. The Hill reports: “Congress is growing hostile to the emerging nuclear deal with Iran, leaving President Obama with little political cover as he approaches a critical deadline in the talks. . . . But as details of the still-evolving talks have dribbled out of Geneva, where Secretary of State John Kerry is leading the process, lawmakers are amplifying concerns that the administration is granting too many concessions to Tehran.” And when the New York Times starts raising the red flag that Obama may be “overplaying” his hand, you know things have gone way beyond anything we have seen in any prior administration. The Times agrees with many critics’ assessment of what is going on:

“Israeli analysts are now suggesting that Mr. Obama and his aides might be overplaying their hand, inviting a backlash of sympathy for Mr. Netanyahu, and that they may not have clearly defined what they expected to gain diplomatically by continuing to pressure the Israeli leader.

The president’s harsh words have been deemed by some to be patronizing and disrespectful not only to Mr. Netanyahu but also to the voters who rewarded his uncompromising stances with a resounding mandate for a fourth term.”

The president is known to be vitriolic toward those who cross him, but what is going on here is more than peevishness. …

 

 

Peter Wehner thinks the president has an ideological need to weaken Israel. 

Why do the president and his advisers, when given the choice of how to interpret Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s comments about a Palestinian state, choose the one that heightens tensions with Israel? Why the constant refrain that “We cannot pretend those comments were never made”? Why the inability to get over the fact that Netanyahu won (and in important respects Obama lost) the Israeli election? Why not move to repair relations?

Part of the answer is undoubtedly the personal pettiness of Mr. Obama and his apparently unquenchable hated for the Israeli prime minister. But something more, something deeper, is going on here, too.

The president is using Prime Minister Netanyahu’s comments to achieve an end he has clearly wanted all along: the weakening of the Jewish state. Mr. Obama is the product of a progressive milieu, including in the academy, where hostility to Israel is widespread. …

 

 

And Doug Schoen, a Dem pollster says Bibi is here to stay, and it is time for the president to grow up.

… We don’t have enough friends to be treating Netanyahu this way, even if he did advocate a single state solution in his campaign. And considering that just this week, we saw two horrendous acts of terrorism in the Middle East in Tunisia and Yemen, the reasons that Obama should firmly commit himself to Israel and Netanyahu continue to mount.

Further, the fact that just a few days ago John Kerry said the U.S. would be willing to negotiate with Syrian President Bashir al-Assad – who is responsible for the deaths of over 200,000 of his own people – while Netanyahu has to wait two days for a congratulatory call from President Obama is completely out of whack with everything I know about diplomacy and politics.

All this is to say that it’s high time President Obama put aside his personal animus towards the Israeli Prime Minister. Netanyahu has a strong, convincing mandate to govern and there should be no doubt that we will need his friendship as the Iranian nuclear negotiations continue and beyond. 

The prime minister is here to stay. It’s time for the Obama White House to grow up and make the relationship work.

 

The cartoonists are good today; Michael Ramirez especially, who has the president saying, “We realize now ISIS is a big problem, so we have launched another attack – on George W. Bush.”

March 29, 2015

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Walter Issacson’s biography of Steve Jobs made a big splash and sold three million copies. Turns out many at Apple were not delighted with the book and they have cooperated with a competing tome. Times of India reviews the new attempt – “Becoming Steve Jobs.”

Steve Jobs prized secrecy from his executives and employees during his tenure at Apple. Now his top lieutenants are speaking out — to help shape the legacy of Steve Jobs.

Through interviews and tweets, Apple brass, including the chief executive, Tim Cook, are throwing their weight behind a new unauthorized biography of the Apple co-founder, “Becoming Steve Jobs,” which goes on sale on March 24. In the book, executives take aim at another title, “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson, an authorized biography published shortly after Jobs’ death in 2011.

Isaacson’s best-seller did a “tremendous disservice” to the Apple chief, Cook said in the new book, written by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli, and excerpted in the April issue of Fast Company.

“It didn’t capture the person,” Cook said. “The person I read about there is somebody I would never have wanted to work with over all this time.”

Jony Ive, Apple’s longtime design chief, added his criticism of Isaacson’s biography last month in a New Yorker profile.

“My regard couldn’t be any lower” for the book, he said, noting that he had read only parts of it.

Eddy Cue, Apple’s chief of software and internet services, endorsed the new book on Jobs in a tweet last week: “Best portrayal is about to be released — Becoming Steve Jobs (book). Well done and first to get it right.” Apple’s iBooks account also tweeted last week that “‘Becoming Steve Jobs’ is the only book about Steve recommended by the people who knew him best.”  …

  

 

Inquisitr reports on a promising treatment for Alzheimer’s.

Researchers in Australia have devised a treatment that effectively reverses the effects of Alzheimer’s disease.

A team from the Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) at the University of Queensland has come up with a non-invasive therapy based on ultrasound technology that essentially de-plaques our brain, thereby allowing neurons and their network of connections to work better. The ultrasound based therapy clears the brain of neuro-toxic amyloid plaques. …

… The team used focused therapeutic ultrasound, which beams sound waves into the brain tissue, without opening by the skull. Essentially, these sound waves oscillate at a very high frequency, thereby gently opening the blood-brain barrier, which is a layer that protects the brain against bacteria, and stimulate the brain’s microglial cells to move in.

Microglial cells are essentially the body’s waste-removal cells. Once these cells get past the blood-brain barrier, they’re able to scrub out the toxic beta-amyloid clumps before the blood-brain barrier is restored. The ultrasound therapy offers these cells a window of a few hours to do their job, before the barrier has a chance to re-erect.

The results have been astounding. The team claims that 75 percent of the participants had their memory functions fully restored, with zero damage to the surrounding brain tissue. However, these participants were lab-mice. …

 

 

And if you can’t wait for the process to be approved for use, Inquisitr also reports on beer’s magical Alzheimer’s fighting properties. That’s right – BEER! 

Scientists have confirmed what men claimed all along – beer is good for your brain.

A group of Chinese scientists have determined what you always knew deep down in your heart: Beer is good for the brain. The beer draws its superpowers from hops, the female flowers of the hop plant Humulus lupulus, which are used primarily as a flavoring and stability agent in beer. However, apart from contributing to the signature taste of the beer, hops releases a chemical — Xanthohumol — that has the potential to fight off neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Xanthohumol, commonly referred to as Xn, has successfully fought off cell damage that could have ruined the brain. Though wine may have been touted as the great protector and healer of cells in the old age, Xn has been previously proven to fend off cancer, viruses, obesity, and inflammation. Its brain-boosting benefits though haven’t been seriously studied — until now. …

 

 

The Wall Street Journal says our demand for healthier food is changing the balance of power in the grocery business. 

Orders for organic burritos, Thai stir-fry and other frozen products from Amy’s Kitchen Inc. have been growing so quickly that late last year the company bought a second factory—an Idaho plant that H.J. Heinz Co. had just shut amid shrinking demand for its frozen food.

Started in 1988 by a married couple who named it after their daughter, Amy’s in recent years has expanded beyond the world of specialty grocers into mainstream supermarkets like Piggly Wiggly and Price Chopper. Sales have surged 72% over the past five years to $443 million in 2014.

“Everyone said when we reached a certain size our growth would slow,” said Andy Berliner, co-founder and chief executive. “We keep waiting for that to happen, but we’re still growing so fast.”

Amy’s and other smaller companies focused on natural and organic foods are feasting on shifts in tastes among consumers distrustful of established food giants’ products and ingredients. The rise of these smaller companies, helped by growing interest from big retailers, is eating into demand for brands that for decades were commonplace in American kitchens, like Kraft Foods Group Inc.’s macaroni and cheese and Kellogg Co.’s breakfast cereals. …

 

 

Another other worldly talent of elephants is reported by National Geographic.

South Africa—Chishuru, a large African elephant bull with a talent for sniffing out TNT, stood in front of a line of seven white buckets.

Inside one of the buckets on a recent morning was a slight trace of TNT on a piece of paper stapled to the bottom. Chishuru’s job was to find out exactly which bucket it was—using his nimble trunk to guide the way.

The elephant ambled between the buckets, snaking his long trunk into each one—there were different, harmless scent traces in each bucket—and taking a big sniff before moving on to the next. At the fifth bucket he paused and raised his right leg, indicating to a research team that this was the one with a trace of TNT inside. Bingo. …

Elephants have 2,000 genes for smell, the most of any animal on Earth—more than twice those of the domestic dog and five times more than those of humans, according to a 2014 study in the journal Genome Research.

A previous study in Kenya found that elephants can distinguish which tribe a person belongs to by their smell, and will actively avoid those from tribes that have been hostile toward them. 

And in postwar Angola, elephants have beenobserved avoiding landmine fields, possibly because they can smell the mines underground.

At the Adventures with Elephants ranch, a safari business about 100 miles (160 kilometers) from Pretoria, owner Sean Hensman knows how smart and skillful the giant mammals can be.

“We are only scratching the surface of what we know about this animal,” says Hensman. …

 

 

The fastest growing metro area in the US is the Villages near Orlando. NewMax has the story.

The latest estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau are in, and the fastest-growing city is not an oil boomtown or a magnet for new immigrants, but a senior living community outside Orlando, Fla., with a reputation for attracting active retirees.

The Villages, a sprawling senior community of 114,000 residents, increased 5.4 percent in the year ended July 2014, making it the country’s fastest-growing metro for the second straight year. That’s triple the growth rate for the state of Florida and far faster than Myrtle Beach, S.C., the second fastest-growing U.S. city, which expanded 3.2 percent. …

 

 

Another wonderful day without articles on the latest disasters from President Bystander.

March 26, 2015

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A couple of our favorites comment on the passing of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew. Max Boot is first. 

There are many reasons to judge Lee Kuan Yew a genius. Not the least of them is the fact that he attended CambridgeUniversity—the alma mater of Stanley Baldwin (the do-nothing British prime minister of the 1920s-1930s), the Cambridge 5 spy ring (Kim Philby et al.), and Jawaharlal Nehru, among others—and managed to emerge not only a sensible person but also one of distinctly free-market views. He had the advantage, of course, of having been raised in the Crown Colony of Singapore, which, like Hong Kong, continued to practice unfettered capitalism long after it had become unfashionable in the HomeIslands. Thus Lee fashioned in Singapore, the city state he ruled from 1959 to 1990, one of the most dynamic free-market societies on earth—one that has remarkably enough gone from per capita GDP of $512 a head in the 1965 to over $56,000 a head today, making it richer than Japan or Germany.

He was seemingly immune to the Fabian Socialist nostrums taught at Cambridge and other British universities in the first half of the twentieth century—misguided ideas which did so much to mess up developing countries in Africa and Asia where they were dutifully imported by credulous Oxbridge and London School of Economics graduates. Lee harked back to earlier British ideas—the ideas associated with free market apostles of the 19th century such as Richard Cobden and John Bright of Anti-Corn Law League fame—and his tiny state greatly benefitted from his iconoclasm. …

… Neither a democracy nor a dictatorship is likely to produce a leader of Lee Kuan Yew’s caliber very often. But the saving grace in democracy is that there are limits on what the chief executive can do. Indeed the genius of America’s Constitution is that it has allowed the United States to survive presidents such as James Buchanan, Millard Fillmore, Herbert Hoover, and Jimmy Carter. Singapore and its many imitators would be well advised to stop trying to replicate Lee Kuan Yew and instead institutionalize systems that are robust enough to flourish under leaders of lesser caliber.

 

 

Thomas Sowell also had thoughts.

… Today Singapore has a per capita Gross Domestic Product more than 50 percent higher than that of the United Kingdom and a crime rate a small fraction of that in England. A 2010 study showed more patents and patent applications from the small city-state of Singapore than from Russia. Few places in the world can match Singapore for cleanliness and orderliness.

This remarkable transformation of Singapore took place under the authoritarian rule of Lee Kuan Yew for two decades as prime minister. And it happened despite some very serious handicaps that led to chaos and self-destruction in other countries.

Singapore had little in the way of natural resources. It even had to import drinking water from neighboring Malaysia. Its population consisted of people of different races, languages and religions — the Chinese majority and the sizable Malay and Indian minorities.

At a time when other Third World countries were setting up government-controlled economies and blaming their poverty on “exploitation” by more advanced industrial nations, Lee Kuan Yew promoted a market economy, welcomed foreign investments, and made Singapore’s children learn English, to maximize the benefits from Singapore’s position as a major port for international commerce.

Singapore’s schools also taught the separate native languages of its Chinese, Malay and Indian Tamil peoples. But everyone had to learn English, because it was the language of international commerce, on which the country’s economic prosperity depended.

In short, Lee Kuan Yew was pragmatic, rather than ideological. …

 

 

And this appeared in a piece by Henry Kissinger.

… The great tragedy of Lee’s life was that his beloved wife was felled by a stroke that left her a prisoner in her body, unable to communicate or receive communication. Through all that time, Lee sat by her bedside in the evening reading to her. He had faith that she understood despite the evidence to the contrary.

Perhaps this was Lee Kuan Yew’s role in his era. He had the same hope for our world. He fought for its better instincts even when the evidence was ambiguous. ….

 

 

We return to Mr. Sowell who after writing about the accomplishments of Lee Kuan Yew turns his attention to someone who has been a nothingburger. He writes on Hillary Clinton’s lackluster record. 

… For someone who has spent her entire adult life in politics, including being a Senator and then a Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton has nothing to show for all those years — no significant legislation of hers that she got passed in the Senate, and only an unbroken series of international setbacks for the United States during her time as Secretary of State.

Before Barack Obama entered the White House and appointed Mrs. Clinton Secretary of State, Al Qaeda operatives in Iraq had notified their higher ups, stationed in Pakistan, that their cause was lost in Iraq and that there was no point sending more men there.

Hosni Mubarak was in charge in Egypt. He posed no threat to American or Western interests in the Middle East or to Christians within Egypt or to Israel. But the Obama administration threw its weight behind the Muslim Brotherhood, which took over and began terrorizing Christians in Egypt and promoting hostility to Israel.

In Libya next door, the Qaddafi regime had already given up its weapons of mass destruction, after they saw what happened to Saddam Hussein in Iraq. But President Obama’s foreign policy, carried out by Secretary of State Clinton, got Qaddafi removed, after which Libya became a terrorist haven where an American ambassador was killed, for the first time in decades.

The rationale for getting rid of Middle East leaders who posed no threat to American interests was that they were undemocratic and their people were restless. But there are no democracies in the Middle East, except for Israel. …

 

 

Joel Kotkin posts on the tension arising between tech companies and some of their allies on the left.

The rise of today’s progressive-dominated Democratic Party stemmed from a brilliant melding of minorities, the poor, the intelligentsia and, quite surprising, the new ultrarich of Silicon Valley. For the past decade, this alliance has worked for both sides, giving the tech titans politically correct cover while suggesting their support for the progressives’ message can work with business.

Not only did tech overwhelmingly favor President Obama with campaign contributions but Obama also overwhelming won the Silicon Valley electorate, taking the once GOP-leaning Santa Clara County with 70 percent of the vote. After the 2012 election, a host of former top Obama aides – including former campaign manager David Plouffe (Uber) and press spokesman Jay Carney (Amazon) – have signed up to work for tech giants. Perhaps even more revealing was the politically inspired firing last year of former Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich for contributing to California’s Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage.

Yet, despite these ties and PC eruptions, this alliance between the ideologically and the technically advanced shows signs of unraveling. This reflects, over time, what Marxists might have referred to as “contradictions” between two very different worldviews: the disruptive, acquisitive, aggressive spirit inherent in entrepreneurial capitalism and the increasingly egalitarian, property-controlling instincts of the progressive Left. To many progressives, the Silicon Valley elite are no longer scrappy up-and-comers, but increasingly resemble a new oligarchy.

Like the nobles of the Middle Ages or the corporate hegemons of the industrial era, Silicon Valley billionaires are increasingly asked to take responsibility for many of society’s ills. These include a wide range of issues, from feminism and race to privacy and, most critically, class inequality. Supporting gay marriage or measures to fight climate change may no longer be enough to win over progressives.

Arguably the most widely acknowledged conflict – at least the raciest – involves sex discrimination. From its inception as a cradle of technology, the Valley’s culture has been highly masculine. Indeed, roughly 26 percent of tech industry workers are women, well below their 47 percent share of the total workforce. …

 

 

John Steele Gordon says Cruz, with his lack of experience is a right-wing version of you know who.

Barack Obama was spectacularly unprepared to be president and, except for the true believers, his presidency has been a disaster because of it. He had no executive experience whatever but was supposed to be the chief executive officer of the largest organization on earth, the federal government. He had no political leadership experience, having been a backbencher in both the Illinois Senate and the United States Senate, with no legislative accomplishments to his credit. He had no foreign affairs experience. He has proved to be a terrible negotiator, ideologically rigid and contemptuous of any opinion but his own, although negotiating—getting to yes—is the very essence of politics. Today Senator Ted Cruz is announcing his candidacy for the Republican nomination for president. Is he qualified? …

March 25, 2015

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Walter Russell Mead posts on President Ahab and “the great white whale.”

President Obama perseveres, convinced that everyone will thank him when the Great White Whale of Middle East policy—a lasting nuclear deal with Iran—is finally harpooned. But as the endgame draws nigh, a unified chorus of naysayers is rising in volume.

With the House nearly united against him, can Obama still stand? Today, 360 Representatives (including more than half of the House’s Democrats) sent a letter to the President warning that permanent sanctions relief for Iran must entail new legislation from Congress. More from The Hill:

“In reviewing such an agreement, Congress must be convinced that its terms foreclose any pathway to a bomb, and only then will Congress be able to consider permanent sanctions relief,” [the letter] adds.

The letter stops short of supporting legislation pursued by the Senate that would allow Congress 60 days to weigh in on any final deal before its implementation.

However, it adds, “We are prepared to evaluate any agreement to determine its long-term impact on the United States and our allies.”

Taken on its face, this letter would apparently doom the Iran deal in the form it is being presented through leaks from the negotiators. Iran is insisting on a time limit for the deal; the House appears to be saying that no such time limit will be acceptable to the U.S. Congress. If House Democrats stick to this message, the President’s Iran policy looks doomed to veto-proof rebukes from both branches of Congress.

This is probably not what President Obama meant when he promised to fight the partisanship in American politics, but he seems to be creating a strong bipartisan consensus on the Middle East. (He’s also been something of a uniter in the Middle East as well; Israel and the Sunni Arab countries have never been closer than they are now.)

The Dem-supported House letter isn’t the only high-profile rebuke to emerge today from the President’s camp. President Obama’s old CIA director is saying that the Iran-backed Shia militias are worse news than ISIS. In an interview with the Washington Post, General Petraeus was blunt: …

  

 

Walter Jacobson of Legal Insurrection claims he has the back story to the president’s Bibi tantrum. 

The Obama administration has vented its fury at Israel based on Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress, and pre-election statements.

None of those issues justified the complete fury coming from the administration. It just didn’t add up.

Now The Wall Street Journal reveals the back story — one in which the Israelis found out about secret negotiations and secret details concealed from Congress, and told Congress. Now the administration is promising long-term damage to Israel that will last beyond this administration.

It also becomes obvious that the meme that Netanyahu has been acting to help his reelection is wrong. There is a long history of Israel trying to stop a disastrous deal being negotiated in secret. Netanyahu’s opposition has been based on security concerns for years, not the recent election.

The Wall Street Journal’s article is titled Israel Spied on Iran Talks.

That title, however, is not really the story. The story is that Israel learned not only that Obama was hiding secret Iran nuclear negotiations from Israel, but also later found out details that Israel shared with Congress. The article is lengthy, and behind the paywall.

Here is the intro: …

 

 

Yesterday we closed with a review of Shelby Steele’s latest book. We pick up the same thread in a Daily Beast article on the “last sane liberal.” It’s about Patrick Monyihan who foresaw 50 years ago what the havoc the left/liberals would wreck on all families; black and white. 

The late Daniel Patrick Moynihan is being vindicated—fifty years too late. His once-infamous March 1965 “Moynihan Report,” is now considered prophetic, anticipating the dissolution of the American family, and not just in African-American communities. But for all the New York Times talk about “When Liberals Blew It,” as Nicholas Kristof boldly put it, liberals—and most Americans—are still blowing it. Until we confront the modern confusion between liberalism and libertinism, Moynihan’s true warnings will go unheeded, and American society will continue degenerating.

In 1965, as Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty gained momentum, Moynihan, a 38-year-old Assistant Secretary of Labor, boldly warned about the epidemic of illegitimate African-American births. The “deterioration of the Negro family” ensnared blacks in a “tangle of pathology.”

Anticipating the next half-century of social tensions, Moynihan noted that establishing legal rights was not enough, the challenge was ensuring equal opportunity. “The most difficult fact for white Americans to understand,” he wrote, was that economically and even socially “the circumstances of the Negro American community in recent years has probably been getting  worse, not better.” The once stable black families of the 1950s disintegrated, as the same openness that boosted the civil rights movement also undermined traditional family structure for blacks and whites, weakening community structures and strictures.

By 1990, the percentage of black children born to unmarried mothers hit 70 percent. Thanks to this all-American values breakdown, with sexual expression trumping traditional repression, today, over 40 percent of all American births are to unmarried mothers. Many of the 50th anniversary pieces have noted that, while any particular family configuration can work, collectively, the key variable separating America’s privileged and troubled kids is whether they are raised in two-parent families or single-mother households. …

 

 

Another foolish left/liberal idea that punishes the poor are the minimum wage laws. Thomas Sowell writes on the current experiment in San Francisco.

… A recent story in a San Francisco newspaper says that some restaurants and grocery stores in Oakland’s Chinatown have closed after the city’s minimum wage was raised. Other small businesses there are not sure they are going to survive, since many depend on a thin profit margin and a high volume of sales.

At an angry meeting between local small business owners and city officials, the local organization that had campaigned for the higher minimum wage was absent. They were probably some place congratulating themselves on having passed a humane “living wage” law. The group most affected was also absent — inexperienced and unskilled young people, who need a job to get some experience, even more than they need the money.

It is not a breakthrough on the frontiers of knowledge that minimum wage laws reduce employment opportunities for the young and the unskilled of any age. It has been happening around the world, for generation after generation, and in the most diverse countries.

It is not just the young who are affected when minimum wage rates are set according to the fashionable notions of third parties, with little or no regard for whether everyone is productive enough to be worth paying the minimum wage they set.

You can check this out for yourself. Go to your local public library and pick up a copy of the distinguished British magazine “The Economist.”

Whether it is the current issue or a back issue doesn’t matter. Spain, Greece and South Africa will be easy to locate in the table near the back, which lists data for various countries. Just look down the unemployment column for countries with unemployment rates around 25 percent. Spain, Greece and South Africa are always there, whether or not there is a recession. Why? Because they have very generous minimum wage laws. …

 

 

Kevin Williamson writes on the fact challenged president.

‘Can I trust what the president says? That’s a yes-or-no question.” So inquired U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen in response to having been lied to by the Obama administration. The administration wants to use a presidential decree to enact an amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants; half of the states have rallied behind Texas in arguing that this is unconstitutional, that the president is arrogating to himself a legislative power that is properly Congress’s. Lawyers for the Justice Department, led by Kathleen Hartnett, assured the court that no action on DAPA — Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents — would be taken until Judge Hanen had made a ruling on whether to issue an injunction against it.

“Like an idiot, I believed that,” the judge says.

The Obama administration, being what it is, ignored its promise to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas and began handing out reprieves as fast as it could, issuing more than 100,000 of them. When the annoyed judge demanded to know why the Department of Justice had lied to a federal court, Hartnett argued that the reprieves were being handed out under a different set of guidelines. The judge was not buying it. Among other things, the administration is offering three-year grants of immunity, which are not authorized by the earlier authority under which it purports to be operating.

It is easy to understand why the administration is in a hurry to sign up as many people for its illegal amnesty as it can: The more beneficiaries there are, the more difficult it becomes to revoke the amnesty, even when it is confirmed as being illegal and unconstitutional. Judge Hanen already has sided with the states on a substantial issue, handing down that injunction he had been considering.

That Barack Obama and those he holds near have a funny way with the truth is not news. The president famously claimed in a speech in 2007 that the great civil-rights march in Selma, Ala., led to his conception: “There was something stirring across the country because of what happened in Selma, Alabama, because some folks are willing to march across a bridge. So they got together and Barack Obama Jr. was born. So don’t tell me I don’t have a claim on Selma, Alabama.” He was in fact born years before that march happened — his parents were divorced by the time of the march — but one can see how such mythology would appeal to a man with Barack Obama’s messianic pretensions. …

March 24, 2015

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Austin Bay on the diplomacy of fools.

Poles knew September 2009 would be a bitter month. It marked the 70 anniversary of their country’s great geo-political catastrophe, the start of World War 2 and their nation’s imprisonment.

The 21st-century bitterness Poles did not expect was President Barack Obama’s shocking Sept. 17, 2009, announcement. To “reset” U.S.-Russia relations, Obama said he had terminated U.S. participation — which meant Polish participation as well — in what Poland and other U.S. allies regarded as an essential NATO and European defense program: deploying long-range anti-missile missiles in Poland (Ground Based Interceptors).

The peaceful order Obama said his decision would achieve dismayed Poles who know from experience that the Kremlin’s version of a reset usually involves Russian military resurgence, not peace. Obama’s abrupt termination of a major, negotiated multi-lateral policy worried them. His failure to consult Warsaw infuriated them. History added injury; the date on which he announced his flip-flop appalled them. …

… Polish dismay with US optimism precedes Obama. In 2001 they cringed when George W. Bush said he looked in Vladimir Putin’s eyes and got “a sense of (Putin’s) soul.” Poles saw a KGB colonel gulling a naive American. …

… World War 2 taught Poland that collective defense matters. Weak nations need strong allies. But in a world where destructive actors possess long-range missiles and have the intent to use them, an adequate defense requires international participation. The Poles understand that a robust missile defense is a key element in collective defense protecting constructive nations from destructive actors. They also understand that constructing and deploying complicated weapons requires a long lead-time.

Obama’s September 2009 concession didn’t transform. It may yet yield strategic disaster. Moreover, he does not learn from his mistakes. Utopian goals guide his Iran policy. He breaks promises on whim, and today allies wonder if Obama would honor America’s NATO commitment. …

 

 

And it’s not that the history is inaccessible, Pickerhead wrote a piece in March, 2010 that kicked off with reference to the slight we gave to Poland.

Perhaps it is strange for a free market blogger to suggest American knowledge of Russian history is woefully inadequate. But, we really are ignorant of that part of the world. If the Obama administration knew more, maybe they would have picked another day to tell Poland we were caving to the Russians and canceling plans for Eastern Europe’s missile defense shield. Instead, they picked the 70th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland. That was a minor event in the overall war, but it was followed by typical Bolshevik horrors, including the massacre of 22,000 Polish officers at sites like KatynForest. 

Poles will never forget.    

As we approach the rolling 70th anniversary of the major events of World War II it is easy to forget the conflict was underway for almost two years before all hell really broke loose. This period started with the September 1939 invasion of Poland by, first Germany, and then Russia. Then came the German invasion of France and the Low Countries in May 1940, and finally the German move against Russia in June 1941. In the eight months between the invasions of Poland and France, headline writers had fun reporting on the “Bore War” and called it ”Sitzkrieg” rather than Blitzkrieg. 

In and around Russia, though, there was a lot of activity. A border incident with Japan in Mongolia at Khalkhin Gol turned into a small war, and in Europe there was the Winter War with Finland. The world ignored the first because it was far away and overshadowed by the contemporaneous Hitler-Stalin Pact; was aghast at the second, and kicked Russia out of the League of Nations. The Red Army’s poor showing against Finland was further embarrassment for Russia and led to Hitler’s fatal misunderstandings about Soviet forces. …

 

 

In yet another example of his thundering ignorance, the president has proposed mandatory voting. What would he do? Would he hire another 16,000 IRS agents to complement those hired to enforce the health care act? Pickerhead has always maintained that free people are those who don’t feel the need to vote. John Fund starts the comments.

Since he will never again see his name appear on a ballot, President Obama is finally telling us what he really thinks.

“If everybody voted, then it would completely change the political map in this country,” Obama said yesterday at a Cleveland town hall meeting. “It would be transformative if everybody voted.”

He also said it would be “fun” to force through a constitutional amendment restricting the free-speech rights of Americans to contribute money to politics. Fun?

Mr. President, we wouldn’t be America anymore with forced voting and people fined or jailed for using the First Amendment to express political views.

When it comes to voting, only eleven nations in the world actually enforce laws requiring people to vote. Several nations have tried them and dropped the idea, including Chile, Fiji, and Italy, which rescinded the policy in 1993. “There was finally a consensus that it was a basic infringement of freedom,” says Antonio Martino, a former Italian foreign minister. “Forcing people to vote violates their freedom of speech, because the freedom to speak includes the right not to speak.”

Indeed, not voting can send a message just as much as voting. If times are good and major parties are in broad agreement on major issues, a low voter turnout can be a sign of a healthy democracy. Similarly, in times of discontent when major parties are not offering up clear and compelling alternatives, non-voting signals that the legitimacy of the process is being questioned.

President Obama gave his real motivation away during his Cleveland riff by noting that Democrats stayed home in last November’s election, in which his party was crushed. It won’t surprise you that his motivation is political. Recall his famous post-election comment that he also heard the voices of Americans who didn’t vote. This week the president said “the people who tend not to vote are young, they’re lower income, they’re skewed more heavily towards immigrant groups and minority groups. We should want to get them into the polls.” But rather than blame himself or his party for the failure to inspire his ostensible supporters to vote, the president is turning to the idea of dragooning them to the ballot box.

The columnist George Will once said: “Really up-to-date liberals do not care what people do, as long as it is compulsory.” President Obama has joined their ranks. …

 

 

John Hinderaker comments on compulsory voting.

… It is hard to know where to begin. The idea of forcing Americans to vote is, frankly, un-American, and would have been regarded as such by every American political leader from George Washington through George W. Bush. If an American wants to stay home on election day, it is his God-given right to do so. The idea that policemen should herd Americans to the polls, or the IRS should withhold extra taxes if they don’t appear on a voter list, is repugnant. …

 

 

WSJ Editors weigh in.

We’re going to need more IRS agents. That’s the gist of President Obama’s latest bid to impose yet another mandate on the American people. This time he wants to require all Americans to vote, whether they want to or not. … 

… Some Americans have already got a taste of what President Obama’s fondness for government by mandate means. Before it won its Supreme Court case, the crafts chain Hobby Lobby was faced with fines of $1.3 million for every day it refused to obey the contraceptive mandate. This year, with the April 15 tax deadline approaching, many young and healthy Americans who have disobeyed the Obama mandate to buy health insurance from the government’s limited menu are going to have to deal with the IRS.

“Everything not forbidden is compulsory.” That line comes from British writer T.H. White, in his novel recreating the life and times of King Arthur. White meant it as mockery. President Obama doesn’t get the joke.

 

 

Shame, Shelby Steele’s latest book, is reviewed by Joseph Epstein

‘You,’ a character in Ossie Davis’s 1961 play “Purlie Victorious” says to another, “are a disgrace to the Negro profession.” The line recurs to me whenever I see Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson making perfunctory rabble-rousing remarks in Ferguson, Mo., Madison, Wis., current-day Selma, Ala., or any other protest scene where their appearance, like Toni Morrison on a list of honorary-degree recipients, has become de rigueur. I wonder if Shelby Steele has also been called “a disgrace to the Negro profession,” and this for diametrically opposite reasons. Had he been it could only have been by people who, despite their endless cries for social justice, in one way or another have a deep emotional if not financial investment in keeping black Americans in the sad conditions in which so many of them continue to find themselves.

Shelby Steele is one of the very few writers able to tell home truths about the plight of black Americans. …

… The author has a fierce racial pride, and his writing about blacks in America is without condescension and imbued with deep sympathy. He is a brother, make no mistake, but a brother quite unlike any other. What distinguishes him is his openly stated belief that blacks in America have been sold out by the very liberals who ardently claim to wish them most good. He regrets that affirmative action, multiculturalism and most welfare programs purportedly put in place to show racial preference, far from liberating black Americans, have failed to advance their fortunes. Judging from high crime, divorce and unemployment rates, as well as relatively low rates of high-school and college completion, a case can be made that liberal policies have harmed them. To cite a single statistic: In 1965, the year after passage of the Civil Rights Act, 23.6% of black births in America were to single women; today that number is 72%….

… The author’s conclusion is that black America sold itself out, entered “a Faustian pact,” as he puts it, by placing its destiny in the “hands of contrite white people.” Doing so, he writes, “left us pleading with government, not for freedom, which we had already won, but for ‘programs’ and ‘preferences’ that would be a ladder to full equality. The chilling result is that now, fifty years later, we remain—by most important measures—in the position of inferiors and dependents.” The liberalism that has come into prominence since the 1960s, Mr. Steele believes, “has done little more than toy with blacks.” …

March 23, 2015

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Back to the Washington Miscreant. We start with Josh Kraushaar from the left/liberal National Journal. You know things are bad when even liberals can see what a disaster this president has become. Imagine policies so dumb both parties in congress will soon unite in opposition.

Throughout the contentious debate between the White House and Congress over the Iran nuclear negotiations, one important piece of the equation has been largely overlooked: American public opinion. If voters were confident that President Obama was striking a good deal with Iran that would prevent Tehran from getting nuclear weapons, he’d have little trouble getting support from the legislative branch.

But the reason the president is facing such bipartisan backlash is that an overwhelming number of voters are deeply worried about the direction of the negotiations. Think about how rare, in these polarized times, mobilizing a veto-proof majority of congressional Republicans and Democrats is for any significant legislation. Yet despite all the distractions, Congress is close to achieving that goal: requiring the administration to go to Congress for approval of any deal. …

… History has shown that Obama is willing to ignore public opinion to accomplish his goals even when it’s against his own political interest. The ends, in the White House’s view, ultimately justify the means.

When Scott Brown won Edward Kennedy’s deeply Democratic Senate seat in Massachusetts by running against the president’s proposed health care plan, Obama forged ahead with polarizing legislation that is dogging his administration to this very day. Even though his advisers warned him against issuing any executive order on immigration before the 2014 midterms—citing battleground-state polling showing it would be highly unpopular—he pursued it anyway after his party lost nine Senate seats. In his postelection press conference, Obama copped that he cares as much about the views of the people who didn’t vote, rather than citing the decisive rebuke from those who went to the polls to reject the direction he has pursued.

On Iran, Obama’s behavior toward the people’s representatives in Congress is even more dismissive. Knowing how widespread the opposition is in Congress, the administration is looking to bypass the Senate’s role in weighing in on a deal. It’s a position that has alienated him even from usually reliable allies such as Sen. Tim Kaine. …

… Being so dismissive of public opinion is a dangerous game to play, especially when it comes to foreign policy. For all his mistakes in conducting the Iraq War, former President George W. Bush secured a bipartisan congressional authorization for declaring war against Iraq, working to rally public support in 2003 to win that approval.

Obama views that equation backward: Getting the outcome he wants, and then attacking his opponents for not going along with him. It certainly hasn’t proved to be a healthy process domestically. Now he’s trying to extend that approach to the international stage.

 

 

Jonathan Tobin thinks we have had enough of amateurs in the White House. 

Last week, our Seth Mandel wrote an interesting piece about the way radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt might shape the 2016 Republican presidential contest both by hosting a GOP debate and through his probing no-holds-barred interviews with the contenders. Yesterday, as if acting on cue to prove Seth’s point, Hewitt had Dr. Ben Carson on his show in what should be considered one of the first real tests of the likely candidate’s mettle. Rather than lob softballs at the good doctor as most conservative talkers would do, Hewitt not only asked tough questions but paid particular attention to what was likely to be Carson’s weak spot: foreign policy. The results were illuminating and should alert those right-wing populists who think Carson is ready for the presidency that he is anything but.

A famed neurosurgeon, Carson is surely as intelligent as anybody who’s ever run for president. He’s not completely ignorant about foreign policy and seems to be a supporter of a strong America and an opponent of terrorism. But he was soon tripped up by faulty knowledge of some basic facts about the world and history. Though quick to offer opinions about what to do about Russia, Carson didn’t know that the Baltic States are already NATO members. When asked to identify the roots of Islamic terrorism he replied by citing the Biblical conflict between Jacob and his brother Esau, failing to realize that Islam is only 1,400 years old and not “thousands” as he claimed. He also cited the possibility that Shia and Sunni Muslims would unite against the United States when in fact the two factions are at each other’s throats in a conflict that is fueling Iran’s quest for regional hegemony.

Carson says he’s planning on studying the issues more closely in the future and seems to regard this as a minor detail that can be corrected but as Hewitt said:

“I want to be respectful in posing this. But I mean, you wouldn’t expect me to become a neurosurgeon in a couple of years. And I wouldn’t expect you to be able to access and understand and collate the information necessary to be a global strategist in a couple of years. Is it fair for people to worry that you just haven’t been in the world strategy long enough to be competent to imagine you in the Oval Office deciding these things? I mean, we’ve tried an amateur for the last six years and look what it got us. …”

  

 

David Harsanyi posts on the left’s ugly Israel freakout. 

After years of ginned-up conflict, Barack Obama has finally found a pretext to change the contours of the United States-Israel alliance. Israel’s policies might not be changing, but the administration will “reevaluate” the relationship, anyway.

POLITICO reports that Obama may, among other things, stop shielding Israel from international pressure at the United Nations. So Americans can look forward to joining Sudan or Yemen—feel free to pick any autocratic dump, really—in condemning Jews for living in their historic homeland and relying on democratic institutions rather than a consensus at the United Nation to decide their fate.

So our morally chaotic foreign policy is coming to a predictable climax. At least on this issue. Obama, with no more elections to run, will now use these threats to pressure Israel into compliance on an Iran deal that looks more dangerous every day. That’s not surprising. What is, though, is how self-proclaimed Zionists have co-opted some of the most absurd justifications for throwing Israel to the wolves. …

  

 

Michael Goodwin says Israel should be aware of obama.

First he comes for the banks and health care, uses the IRS to go after critics, politicizes the Justice Department, spies on journalists, tries to curb religious freedom, slashes the military, throws open the borders, doubles the debt and nationalizes the Internet.

He lies to the public, ignores the Constitution, inflames race relations and urges Latinos to punish Republican “enemies.” He abandons our ­allies, appeases tyrants, coddles ­adversaries and uses the Crusades as an excuse for inaction as Islamist terrorists slaughter their way across the Mideast.

Now he’s coming for Israel. ..

… Against the backdrop of the tsunami of trouble he has unleashed, Obama’s pledge to “reassess” America’s relationship with Israel cannot be taken lightly. Already paving the way for an Iranian nuke, he is hinting he’ll also let the other anti-Semites at TurtleBay have their way. That could mean American support for punitive Security Council resolutions or for Palestinian statehood initiatives. It could mean both, or something worse.

Whatever form the punishment takes, it will aim to teach Bibi Netanyahu never again to upstage him. And to teach Israeli voters never again to elect somebody Obama doesn’t like.

Apologists and wishful thinkers, including some Jews, insist Obama real­izes that the special relationship between Israel and the United States must prevail and that allowing too much daylight between friends will encourage enemies.

Those people are slow learners, or, more dangerously, deny-ists.

If Obama’s six years in office teach us anything, it is that he is impervious to appeals to good sense. …

 

 

Kevin Williamson has an interesting post on Arabs voting in Israel.

In Reihan’s post, this from the New York Times jumped out at me:

“Arab voters are streaming in huge quantities to the polling stations.”

It is impossible to imagine a Jordan or a Syria or a country pretty much anywhere else in the Middle East in which a journalist might write of Jewish voters: “They were being bused in in droves.”

March 22, 2015

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Patrick Moore, a co-founder of Greenpeace and it’s director for 15 years writes on why he is a climate change skeptic. 

I am skeptical humans are the main cause of climate change and that it will be catastrophic in the near future. There is no scientific proof of this hypothesis, yet we are told “the debate is over” and “the science is settled.”

My skepticism begins with the believers’ certainty they can predict the global climate with a computer model. The entire basis for the doomsday climate change scenario is the hypothesis increased atmospheric carbon dioxide due to fossil fuel emissions will heat the Earth to unlivable temperatures.

In fact, the Earth has been warming very gradually for 300 years, since the Little Ice Age ended, long before heavy use of fossil fuels. Prior to the Little Ice Age, during the Medieval Warm Period, Vikings colonized Greenland and Newfoundland, when it was warmer there than today. And during Roman times, it was warmer, long before fossil fuels revolutionized civilization.

The idea it would be catastrophic if carbon dioxide were to increase and average global temperature were to rise a few degrees is preposterous. …

  

 

The Wall Street Journal reviews James McPherson’s new look at the Civil War. There is some new in this, and it is also worth being reminded of what an unmitigated disaster our country produced as it joined the world in abolishing slavery. The anti-slavery movement in Great Britain spread its gospel to all areas of the globe touched by British power. Even Russia freed the serfs peacefully. But not here. Not only were 750,000 killed, but the framework was created for the apparatus of the modern state. One form of slavery was abolished; to be replaced by another. 

The shooting will have been over for a century and a half this spring, but the casualties keep mounting. As recently as a decade ago the best estimates of the soldiers killed in the Civil War put the number at 600,000; today’s scholarship has increased the toll to three quarters of a million. That was 2.4% of the American population when the war began. As James M. McPherson observes in his brisk and engrossing book, “The War That Forged a Nation,” if the same percentage of Americans were killed in a war today, “the number of war dead would be almost 7.5 million.”

But the appalling mortality rate is hardly the only reason the war lives on in our culture. Mr. McPherson sees the war as lying at the heart—and the midpoint—of the American past, a terrible clarification of the ideals on which the country had been established in 1776. “Founded on a charter that had declared all men created equal with an equal title to liberty,” the author writes, America had by the 1850s “become the largest slaveholding country in the world,” an irony that vexes us even today, so long after Appomattox.

Mr. McPherson has been writing about this war for 50 years, and in “The War That Forged a Nation” he distills a lifetime of scrupulous scholarship into 12 essays—two new, the others extensively revised from previously published versions. Yet the book has none of the haphazard feel of an anthology, and readers will finish it with the sense that they have received a succinct history of the whole struggle, as well as numerous fresh and occasionally controversial observations. …

  

 

OK, we know the following post from Watts Up With That is almost unreadable. But the main thing is to report that no tornadoes have occurred so far in the month of March, That’s a notable event so the post is included. But, you don’t have to try to read it now that you know the one important fact.

The US tornado count for March 2015? Zero. That’s right, so far this month there have been no tornadoes reported in the U.S. — this is only the second time this has happened since 1950, according to Weather Channel meteorologist Greg Forbes.  “We are in uncharted territory with respect to lack of severe weather,” Greg Carbin, a meteorologist at NOAA, said in a statement. “This has never happened in the record of [Storm Prediction Center] watches dating back to 1970.” …

 

 

 

March Madness will be happening through the beginning of April. Slate provided a guide on how to fake your way thru.

So everyone in your office is talking about the NCAA Tournament, but you don’t know the difference between John Calipari and calamari? (One is a slimy bottom-feeder; the other is squid.) Fear not! Your friends at Slate are here with a cheat sheet to help you fake your way through the early stages of the tournament. 

Midwest Region

Talking points: College basketball purists hate Kentucky coach John Calipari for building his teams around so-called one-and-done players who leave school as soon as they become eligible for the NBA draft. These people are assuredly aghast at the chance that the top-ranked Wildcats, who went 34–0 this year, might end up running the tournament and posting a perfect season, thus validating Calipari’s tactics to those who claim he doesn’t do things “the right way.” Talk these people off the ledge by noting that this year’s Kentucky squad relies heavily on veteran players like junior forward Willie Cauley-Stein and sophomore guards—and identical twins—Aaron and Andrew Harrison. Then push them back up on that ledge by noting that collegiate amateurism is a farce and that in a system that’s already ethically bankrupt, “the right way” is any way that wins. …

East Region

Talking points: While the first-seeded Villanova Wildcats haven’t lost a game since Jan. 19, you know that the team to watch in the East is Virginia. The second-seeded Cavaliers don’t score a lot, but they play a smothering help defense that leaves opponents desperate. Coach Tony Bennett’s “pack line” scheme is designed to minimize paint scoring while forcing low-percentage jumpers, and it’s very effective. Feel free to yell “Defense wins championships” at the top of your lungs whenever the Cavaliers force their opponents to take an ugly outside shot. You can also feel free to croon a few bars of “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” whenever the coach is shown on TV. It’s not the same Tony Bennett, but that joke doesn’t wear thin until like the fifth or sixth time. …

  

 

More on the NCAA tournament as a Louisville fan faces up to the thuggery. Story from the WSJ.

This was supposed to be myannualcolumn for taunting the gimmick-riddled realm of Kentucky basketball.

Then three weeks ago, a shock came across my Twitter feed. The starting point guard for my hometown squad—Louisville—was charged with raping two women in one night.

The accusation rattled me to an extent I did not anticipate, forcing a difficult reckoning: Perhaps this team I held so dearly really was no different from the rest of college basketball, a sport of collapsing moral norms.

Energized by winning, I had grown desensitized to the sport’s rolling scandals, the billions of dollars, the towering coaches’ salaries. The Cardinals brought me pure joy, most recently in 2013 when they won the national championship. But something cumulative, something disgusted, emerged after those allegations.

What does it mean to be a fan in 2015? Does being loyal mean being unquestioning? In fact, does being a fan require willful ignorance? …

  

 

ZME Science posts on salt and how it is mined or extracted.

Salt is one of the most common and yet most controversial substances on Earth – you can’t really live without it, but too much of it might kill you. It used to be very expensive, now it’s really cheap, and most of it is used for industrial purposes. It’s in the foods we eat, in the planetary oceans, and in us… but where does it come from? …