July 24, 2014

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As a rule, items about foreign affairs are posted first, but today Kevin Williamson has written a great piece on the importance of property. Not just to our prosperity, but also to peace.

There is not very much good to say about the life and career of Vladimir Lenin, but give the pickled old monster this much: He cut through more than two centuries’ worth of bull and straight to the heart of all politics with his simple question: “Who? Whom?” Which is to say: Who acts? Who is acted upon? Even here in the land of the free, meditating upon that question can be an uncomfortable exercise.

The foundation of classical liberalism, and of the American order, is not the rule of law, a written constitution, freedom of speech and worship, one-man/one-vote democracy, or the Christian moral tradition — necessary as those things are. The irreplaceable basis for a prosperous, decent, liberal, stable society is property. Forget Thomas Jefferson’s epicurean flourish — John Locke and the First Continental Congress had it right on the first go-round: “Life, liberty, and property.” …

… But we do not have any property.

The governments of these United States, from the federal to the local level, have managed to insinuate themselves between citizens and their property at every point of significance. In that, our governments are very much like most other governments, liberal and illiberal, democratic and undemocratic. We have allowed ourselves to be in effect converted from a nation of owners to a nation of renters. But while medieval serfs had only the one landlord, we have a rogue’s gallery of them: the local school board, the criminals at the IRS, the vehicle-registry office, etc. Never-ending property taxes ensure that as a matter of economic function, you never really own your house — you rent it from the government. Vehicle registration fees and, in some jurisdiction, outright taxes on automobile ownership ensure in precisely the same way that you never really own your car: You rent it from the government. Stock portfolio? Held at the sufferance of politicians. A profitable business? You’ll keep what income they decide you can keep. Your own body? Not yours — not if you use it for profitable labor.

A Who down in Whoville? You should be so lucky: Welcome to Whomville, peon. …

… You want a less polarized politics? Consider that the God of the Old Testament asked only for 10 percent, and had Ten Commandments, not ten thousand.

 

 

Mark Steyn connects the dots between the downing of the Malaysian plane and the present fighting in Gaza and Israel.

The two big international headlines of the moment are the downing of the Malaysian jet over Ukraine and Israel’s incursion into Gaza. On the face of it, these two stories don’t have much in common, but they are in fact part of the same story. To know Israel it helps to know Ukraine, and to know Ukraine it helps to know Israel. …

 

… In the Sixties and Seventies, many anti-colonial movements used terrorism to advance their nationalist goals. Hamas uses nationalism to advance its terrorist goals.

Likewise, the forces Putin has loosed in eastern Ukraine: They’re a terrorist movement masquerading as “separatists”. And Putin is to these guys as Iran is to Hamas. That’s to say, he could make the desecration of the MH17 site end – with one phone call.

And yet he chose not to. Because whatever misgivings he had about what his killers had done were quickly allayed by the feeble passivity of Obama’s response, and the mulligans and do-overs President Fundraiser has had to take in the days since. …

 

… Were Obama willing to accept the role, he would have spoken to Putin as “the leader of the free world” and said that, having conferred with the Prime Ministers of the Netherlands, Malaysia, Australia, the United Kingdom, etc, he wanted to let him know an investigatory team representing the countries of those murdered was en route and expected full access to a properly preserved debris scene.

But Obama doesn’t believe in “the free world” and certainly not in America as “leader” of it. And so Putin took his wretched passivity at face value, and figured there was no need to stop his ghouls from mugging the dead.

In Ukraine as in the Holy Land, civilization sits precariously on a field sodden in blood. Israel understands this. Obama and Kerry never will.

 

 

Bret Stephens reviews the Putin record.

Vladimir Putin‘s first major act in power had been to lay waste to the city of Grozny in a manner reminiscent of Tamerlane. Next he went after his domestic opponents in show trials that recalled the methods of Andrey Vyshinsky. Soon he linked hands with Jacques Chirac of France and Gerhard Schröder of Germany to try to stop the Iraq war—which is to say, to keep Saddam Hussein in power. Then he supplied Iran with its first nuclear reactor.

In 2005 Mr. Putin called the collapse of the Soviet Union “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century. In 2006 a mysterious pipeline explosion left Georgia without gas in the dead of winter, a tactic used against several of Russia’s neighbors. Later that year came the murders of Anna Politkovskaya, a muckraking journalist, and Alexander Litvinenko, a Russian intelligence officer who had defected to Britain and was dispatched with a dose of polonium. A few months later Estonia, another free-world thorn in Russia’s side, was subjected to a massive cyberattack.

This is only a partial list of the evidence available at the time of the debate. But it suggested a definite trend. The invasions of Georgia, Crimea and eastern Ukraine still lay in the future. So did the murder of Sergei Magnitsky, the prison sentences for Pussy Riot, the legal harassment of Alexei Navalny, the asylum granted to Ed Snowden, the cheating on the IMF Treaty.

And now the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 and the murder of its 298 passengers and crew, followed by the coverup. How do you “reset” that? …

 

 

Speaking of “reset,” Jennifer Rubin wants to know how non-intervention and “smart diplomacy” have worked.

… Russia is especially illuminating. There are few people who have been wrong about Russia as Hillary Clinton. She was the champion of the Russian reset. She repeatedly went to Russia looking for help with Syria’s civil war (the naïveté is stunning). She championed START, with which the Russians may not be complying, and admission of Russia into WTO. (She was still cheerleading about that in 2012.) Also as late as April 2012, she was insisting Mitt Romney was delusional about Russia, insisting, “In many of the areas where we are working to solve problems, Russia has been an ally.” At the State Department she opposed the Magnitsky Act until its passage was inevitable. All of this was entirely misguided — with the results playing out to this day. Along with prematurely celebrating the decline of al-Qaeda (and taking her eye off the ball in North Africa and elsewhere) her wrong-headedness about Russia was expressed in too many places in too many contexts to entirely extricate her from responsibility for the fiasco that is/was our Russia policy. She can rewrite just so much history. (In her infamous 60 Minutes softball interview with the president she cooed, “I mean [our relationship is] very warm, close. I think there’s a sense of understanding that, you know, sometimes doesn’t even take words because we have similar views. We have similar experiences that I think provide a bond that may seem unlikely to some, but has been really at the core of our relationship over the last four years.”) …

 

 

It’s time for a look at what the elections might bring in four months. Jay Cost from The Weekly Standard is first.

Democratic polling firm Public Policy Polling (PPP) has released a new poll of the North Carolina Senate race, featuring Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan squaring off against Republican state house speaker Thom Tillis, with ostensibly good news for the Democrat: She’s up seven points and expanded on her lead. Their headline: “Hagan continues to grow lead.”

But dig a little deeper and the story is mixed for the Democrat. Hagan’s seven-point lead is due largely to the libertarian candidate, who is polling 8 percent. In no cycle since 1986 has the libertarian pulled more than 3.4 percent in North Carolina; on average the libertarian has won 2.1 percent of the vote. And a deeper dive into PPP’s cross-tabs suggests that a large portion of the libertarian support is actually Republican.

In the head to head match-up, excluding the libertarian, Hagan’s lead is 3 points, which is less than the 4 point lead she posted in their last head-to-head poll. Moreover, she pulls just 42 percent of the vote, a bad spot for any candidate with 90%+ name recognition.

Another complication worth noting: PPP has a peculiar method in the spring and summer months, when they poll “voters.” I do not mean registered voters or likely voters, but people who voted in previous cycles, including presidential ones. This means that they are inevitably sampling an electorate that is much broader than what we will see in November. Turnout in 2012 was 60.2 percent of the voting age population in North Carolina; in 2010 it was 36.4 percent. I know of no other pollster that uses this methodology.

I think the bottom line is that North Carolina joins a list of nearly a dozen states where the real world state of the race is within spitting distance of a tie, with 15 to 20 percent of the electorate still undecided. That is how I would characterize the Democratic-held seats in Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Louisiana, and North Carolina, as well as Republican-held seats in Georgia and Kentucky. …

 

 

Jennifer Rubin says it’s good news the GOP is competitive in Colorado and Iowa.

… the most surprising factor in these two races is candidate quality. Democrats had high hopes for Rep. Braley, but his non-stop gaffes on farmers and abrasive personality have sent voters fleeing. Ernst has had a few rocky moments but has capitalized on Braley’s slips and radiates a positive, populist message. She was able to unite both tea party and establishment Republicans in her big primary win. Colorado Republicans got a high-quality candidate when Garner not only decided to run but cleared out other Republican opposition. He’s been on the offensive — battering Udall on Obamacare and on the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Now remember, Republicans thought they had a clear path to the six Senate seats needed for a victory even without these states. Most pollsters have relatively easy pickups for the GOP in Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia. Throw in hobbled incumbents running in states Mitt Romney won in 2012 (Alaska, Louisiana, North Carolina and Arkansas) and it’s hard to see how the Democrats could hold the Senate if they lose either — and surely if they lose both — Iowa and Colorado. …

July 23, 2014

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Victor Davis Hanson posts on the administration’s “tranquility.” 

Barack Obama’s team recently took credit for improving the “tranquility of the global community,” and the president made it clear just what a calm place the world has become during his tenure.

But this summer Obama’s tranquil world has descended into medieval barbarism in a way scarcely seen in decades. In Gaza, Hamas is banking its missile arsenal in mosques, schools and private homes; even Hitler did not do that with his V2s. Hamas terrorists resort to trying to wire up animals to serve as suicide bombers. Aztec-style, they seek to capture Israeli soldiers to  torture or trade — a sort of updated version of parading captive soldiers up the Templo Mayor in Tenochtitlan.

Hamas cannot build a hotel, but instead applies its premodern cunning to tunneling and killing in ever more insidious ways. Yet it proves incompetent in doing what it wishes to do best — kill Jewish civilians. Its efforts to kill Jews while getting killed in the process earn it sympathy from the morally obtuse of the contemporary world who would have applauded Hitler in 1945 as an underdog who suffered greatly as he was overwhelmed by the Allies that he once tried to destroy.

In Paris, just seventy years after the Holocaust, sympathetic rioters hit the streets to cheer on Hamas’s efforts to kill more Jews with their crude versions of Vergeltungswaffen. The passive French solution apparently is once again to encourage Jews to leave the country, given the growing number of new Nazis in their midst. …

 

 

David Bernstein in Volokh tells about Jewish self defense in Paris.

This sounds like a headline from Tsarist Russia in 1910, but in fact it was last week in Paris. A group of anti-Israel demonstrators tried to storm a synagogue, but Jews had their own undercover agents at the protests so they could raise the alarm if any of the protestors started to engage in violence.  They did so, and the rioters were beaten back by a combination of “right-wing” Jewish youth groups and communal security. Unlike in Tsarist Russia,  the authorities aren’t on the side of the attackers, and they eventually arrived in sufficient numbers to disperse the attackers.

Making it safe for Jews in Europe isn’t really that complicated–the police need to be proactive, using intelligence gathering, decoys wearing kippot and other Jewish garb to draw attackers and arrest them, stings, and so on. Unfortunately, though, policing in Europe is by custom almost entirely reactive, the belief is that specifically doing anything proactively stopping anti-Semitic violence would be “provocative,” and the Jewish leadership, as a well-placed European friend told me, is too ineffectual to demand anything different.

 

 

 

Michael Barone has more on “tranquility.”

… Many things seem to be spinning out of control. Important government agencies are malfunctioning — the Internal Revenue Service, Veterans Affairs. Obamacare is producing higher health care premiums and is on track to deliver more.

Tens of thousands of underage and some not-so-underage Central American illegal immigrants are streaming across the Rio Grande, and the government is flying them to parts unknown — and sending 38 back to their home countries.

Abroad things are even worse. In Syria there is violent civil war, and next door in Iraq terrorists are proclaiming a caliphate.

Israel has been forced to launch a ground attack on the terrorist Hamas regime in Gaza.

A Malaysian airliner cruising at 33,000 feet over Ukraine has been brought down by a rocket, probably by thugs armed by Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

The president, in-between fundraisers, has time for a photo-op playing pool in Colorado, but not for one on the border.

He has time for only two sentences on the airliner shoot-down before a photo-op and two more fundraisers. First things first. …

 

 

As an example of how badly things go for the president, The Washington Post had a long article on how much the white house knew about the border crisis in Texas more than a year ago. 

Nearly a year before President Obama declared a humanitarian crisis on the border, a team of experts arrived at the FortBrown patrol station in Brownsville, Tex., and discovered a makeshift transportation depot for a deluge of foreign children.

Thirty Border Patrol agents were assigned in August 2013 to drive the children to off-site showers, wash their clothes and make them sandwiches. As soon as those children were placed in temporary shelters, more arrived. An average of 66 were apprehended each day on the border and more than 24,000 cycled through Texas patrol stations in 2013. In a 41-page report to the Department of Homeland Security, the team from the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) raised alarms about the federal government’s capacity to manage a situation that was expected to grow worse.

The researchers’ observations were among the warning signs conveyed to the Obama administration over the past two years as a surge of Central American minors has crossed into south Texas illegally. More than 57,000 have entered the United States this year, swamping federal resources and catching the government unprepared.

The administration did too little to heed those warnings, according to interviews with former government officials, outside experts and immigrant advocates, leading to an inadequate response that contributed to this summer’s escalating crisis. …

 

… top officials at the White House and the State Department had been warned repeatedly of the potential for a further explosion in the number of migrant children since the crisis began escalating two years ago, according to former federal officials and others familiar with internal discussions. The White House was directly involved in efforts in early 2012 to care for the children when it helped negotiate a temporary shelter at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.

“There were warning signs, operational folks raising red flags to high levels in terms of this being a potential issue,” said one former senior federal law enforcement official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk candidly about internal operations.

The former official said the agencies primarily in charge of border security, Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, were “ringing alarm bells” within the administration.

Meanwhile, top officials focused much of their attention on political battles, such as Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign …

 

 

Daily Caller with more on the efforts to hide the border crisis.

New data shows the White House has painted a false picture of the Central American migration by hiding a huge spike in “family units” who are illegally crossing the Texas border.

The data, which was dumped by the U.S. border patrol late Friday afternoon, shows that inflow of youths and children traveling without parents has doubled since 2013, to 57,525 in the nine months up to July 2014. …

… In the Rio Grande area where most of the migrants are crossing the border, the number of so-called “unaccompanied children” was actually outnumbered by the inflow by adults, parents and children in “family units,” according to the data.

The much-faster growth in “family units” has been hidden by White House and agency officials, who have tried to portray the influx as a wave of children fleeing abuse and violence.

Top officials, such as Jeh Johnson, the secretary of Homeland Security, has explained the influx as a child migration, and justified the government’s welcoming response as acting “in the best interests of the children.” That portrayal has been picked up and spread by Democratic legislators, reporters and bloggers — such as Greg Sargent at The Washington Post and Rachel Lienesch at the Huffington Post – to help mute the public’s growing anger at the Democrats’ failure to guard the border. …

 

 

Michael Barone says today’s Halbig v. Burwell decision was a stunning rebuke of a lawless and reckless administration. July 17th Pickings ran an article by John Fund on the upcoming Halbig decision. 

The decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in Halbig v. Burwell, announced Tuesday, is a stunning blow to Obamacare and the Obama administration.

Judge Thomas Griffith’s majority opinion ruled that Obamacare — the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — means what it says. Obamacare subsidies are available to consumers in states that set up state health care exchanges, just as the statute specifically authorizes. But they are not available to consumers in states — 36 of them — which did not set up state health care exchanges but allowed federal exchanges there instead, in accordance with the Act. Nowhere does the Act authorize subsidies in such states. …

July 22, 2014

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Arthur Brooks, the head of the American Enterprise Institute with a NY Times OpEd suggesting the root of happiness comes from our relationships with people.

… Some look for relief from unhappiness in money and material things. This scenario is a little more complicated than fame. The evidence does suggest that money relieves suffering in cases of true material need. (This is a strong argument, in my view, for many safety-net policies for the indigent.) But when money becomes an end in itself, it can bring misery, too.

For decades, psychologists have been compiling a vast literature on the relationships between different aspirations and well-being. Whether they examine young adults or people of all ages, the bulk of the studies point toward the same important conclusion: People who rate materialistic goals like wealth as top personal priorities are significantly likelier to be more anxious, more depressed and more frequent drug users, and even to have more physical ailments than those who set their sights on more intrinsic values.

No one sums up the moral snares of materialism more famously than St. Paul in his First Letter to Timothy: “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” Or as the Dalai Lama pithily suggests, it is better to want what you have than to have what you want. …

… Love people, use things.

Easier said than done, I realize. It requires the courage to repudiate pride and the strength to love others — family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, God and even strangers and enemies. Only deny love to things that actually are objects. The practice that achieves this is charity. Few things are as liberating as giving away to others that which we hold dear.

This also requires a condemnation of materialism. This is manifestly not an argument for any specific economic system. Anyone who has spent time in a socialist country must concede that materialism and selfishness are as bad under collectivism, or worse, as when markets are free. No political ideology is immune to materialism.

Finally, it requires a deep skepticism of our own basic desires. Of course you are driven to seek admiration, splendor and physical license. But giving in to these impulses will bring unhappiness. You have a responsibility to yourself to stay in the battle. The day you declare a truce is the day you become unhappier. Declaring war on these destructive impulses is not about asceticism or Puritanism. It is about being a prudent person who seeks to avoid unnecessary suffering. …

 

 

Last week we had an offering from David Harsanyi on “economic patriotism.” Kevin Williamson tackles the same subject.

… This is where my fellow conservatives who write off Barack Obama as a Marxist really get it wrong: He has no meaningful economic philosophy whatsoever. Marxism might be a moral step backward for Barack Obama, but it would be an intellectual step up in the sense that it at least represents a coherent worldview. (“At least it’s an ethos.”) In years of listening to Barack Obama’s speeches, I’ve never detected any evidence that he understands, or even has any interest in, economic questions as such. He is simply a keen political calculator. The conflation of the national interest — “patriotism” — with the interest of the party or the supreme leader is too familiar a demagogic technique to require much explication.

That’s the Washington way: Create stupid financial incentives, complain when people respond to them — and then declare that conformity with your political agenda is identical to patriotism. The production values may be Hollywood slick, but this is just another third-rate sequel: Banana Republic: The Tax Code Strikes Back.

Except the tax code is not striking back. Democrats complain about it, but they rarely if ever try to do anything about the industry handouts and sweetheart deals enshrined therein — given that they wrote so many of them, why would they?

If we have to have a definition of “economic patriotism,” how about this: Economic patriotism means, at the very least, not creating a tax and regulatory environment so cumbrous and counterproductive that a drugstore chain that has been operating in Chicago since the McKinley administration decides that Zurich or Geneva is more hospitable, while politically favored interests benefit from their relationships with political power. After all, Walgreen’s never promised to straighten out the U.S. economy — Barack Obama did.

Maybe Switzerland would take him, too.

 

 

Gerald Seib writes on why Putin is taking risks with Ukraine.

To understand what Vladimir Putin is really up to in Ukraine—why he is willing to take the kinds of risks that produced the destruction of a civilian airliner, and why the U.S. and its allies should see his power play as an effort to alter not just the arc of Ukraine but all of Europe—it’s necessary to look at the tale of two countries.

The first is Poland, a country of 38 million. After the end of the Cold War, this former Warsaw Pact nation turned westward. It almost immediately sought membership in the European Union and joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 1999. After modernizing its economy, it officially became part of the EU in 2004.

Next door to Poland lies Ukraine, a country of 44 million. After the end of the Cold War, this former Soviet satellite didn’t turn west but rather stayed focused on its traditional relationship with Russia to the east.

What has happened to these two neighbors in the quarter-century since the Berlin Wall fell? In a nutshell, they have moved in opposite directions.

Poland, the country that integrated itself into the Western economy, has grown almost twice as fast as Ukraine. Last year, its growth rate was three times larger. Though it’s the slightly smaller of the two neighbors, Poland now has a gross domestic product more than twice the size of Ukraine’s. It has only half the share of its population living under the poverty line as does Ukraine.

This is the contrast that must scare Mr. Putin. …

 

 

Slate tells us the sad story of Robert Kennedy, Jr..

Most paranoid, grandiose, relentless conspiracy theorists can’t call a meeting with a U.S. senator. Then there’s Robert F. Kennedy Jr. A profile of Kennedy in this weekend’s Washington Post Magazine shows that Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Bernie Sanders listened politely while Kennedy told them that a vaccine preservative causes autism.

It doesn’t. It just doesn’t. Every major scientific and medical organization in the country has evaluated the evidence and concluded that the preservative thimerosal is safe. The question is settled scientifically. Thimerosal, out of an abundance of caution, was removed from childhood vaccines 13 years ago, although it is used in some flu vaccines. And yet Kennedy, perhaps more than any other anti-vaccine zealot, has confused parents into worrying that vaccines, which have saved more lives than almost any other public health practice in history, could harm their children.

Mikulski and Sanders, to their credit, both politely blew Kennedy off. That’s a sign of great progress: Not that many years ago, Rep. Dan Burton held congressional hearings on the entirely made-up dangers of vaccines. I’m especially proud of Sanders, who represents Vermont, a state with one of the highest rates of vaccine denial and misinformation.

But the more people dismiss Kennedy, unfortunately, the more obsessive and slanderous he becomes. Keith Kloor describes some of Kennedy’s recent outrageous claims in the Post profile: …

July 21, 2014

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Charles Krauthammer writes on the moral clarity in the Middle East. 

Israel accepts an Egyptian-proposed Gaza cease-fire; Hamas keeps firing. Hamas deliberately aims rockets at civilians; Israel painstakingly tries to avoid them, actually telephoning civilians in the area and dropping warning charges, so-called roof knocking.

“Here’s the difference between us,” explains the Israeli prime minister. “We’re using missile defense to protect our civilians, and they’re using their civilians to protect their missiles.”

Rarely does international politics present a moment of such moral clarity. Yet we routinely hear this Israel-Gaza fighting described as a morally equivalent “cycle of violence.” This is absurd. What possible interest can Israel have in cross-border fighting? Everyone knows Hamas set off this mini-war. And everyone knows the proudly self-declared raison d’etre of Hamas: the eradication of Israel and its Jews.

Apologists for Hamas attribute the blood lust to the Israeli occupation and blockade. Occupation? Does no one remember anything? It was less than 10 years ago that worldwide television showed the Israeli army pulling die-hard settlers off synagogue roofs in Gaza as Israel uprooted its settlements, expelled its citizens, withdrew its military and turned every inch of Gaza over to the Palestinians. There was not a soldier, not a settler, not a single Israeli left in Gaza. …

 

 

We turn attention back to the sad sack in the white house. Power Line has some thoughts.

… As we noted here the other day, Obama has fully matched Jimmy Carter’s fecklessness, reviving Henry Kissinger’s summation, which is worth repeating:

“The Carter administration has managed the extraordinary feat of having, at one and the same time, the worst relations with our allies, the worst relations with our adversaries, and the most serious upheavals in the developing world since the end of the Second World War.”

I think it was Glenn Reynolds who first remarked that a rerun of Carter might be a best-case scenario for the Obama presidency, and it appears he has understated the depth of the problem.  This is what happens when you have a president who decides the U.S. can simply check out of world leadership.  The Rand Pauls of the world have a point that the U.S. is overextended in the world, and a rethinking of our commitments and grand strategy is certainly a valid undertaking.  I noted here two years ago, after John argued that we should withdraw from Afghanistan, that Winston Churchill might well have agreed.

But Obama is not giving us a thoughtful reconsideration of American grand strategy.  He’s just bugging out.

 

 

 

The Manchester Union Leader’s editors say the president’s priority is raising money.

The Middle East is imploding, our southern border is effectively erased, the economy continues to sputter, Social Security is inching closer to insolvency, and our national debt is on track to exceed the entire U.S. economy in 25 years. What has President Obama been doing? Holding fundraisers.

The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that President Obama has held 393 fundraisers, including 34 so far this year. President George W. Bush held 318 fundraisers in his entire two terms.

Republicans made hay about Obama not coming to the border during his recent trip to Texas. Why was he in Texas? To raise money.

Obama has managed to find a great deal of time to raise money for Democrats and make television appearances. What he has done with the rest of his time is a mystery. But maybe it is better this way. Had Obama stayed in the Oval Office diligently attempting to manage the government, things might be even worse.

 

 

Ron Fournier says the president needs to get over himself, but he staffed the administration with sycophants. 

“Every political cause has a narrative. And every narrative has a plot.” Over lunch in Georgetown last month, a top Democratic spokesman, somebody who works intimately with both the White House and Hillary Rodham Clinton’s team, wanted me to understand his frustration with President Obama. He said every plot has a hero. And every hero leaps overwhelming obstacles to accomplish a goal.

“Who’s the hero in the White House narrative?” the Democrat asked.

I shrugged; “Barack Obama.” Aren’t all elections about the candidate, and all White Houses about the president?

The Democrat shook his head. “That’s the problem with this White House. Barack Obama is the hero of their narrative, but he’s not supposed to be,” he said. “The hero of every political narrative should be the voters.”

I thought of this exchange while vacationing the last two weeks in Michigan, a state still recovering from the 2008 recession, still limping out of the industrial era, and just now dealing with the decades-long decline of its largest city, Detroit. …

 

 

OpEd from The Daily Mail,UK on the big talking, small acting president.

… His emotionless reference to the attack as ‘a terrible tragedy’ seemed disconnected from the horrific moment, particularly as he immediately reverted to script to praise his administration and criticise Republicans.

It was a far cry from President Reagan’s 1983 fierce denunciation of the Soviet shooting down of a Korean airliner as a ‘crime against humanity’.

But it only confirmed the chaos into which US foreign policy has descended since the summer of 2012 when reporters at a White House briefing asked Mr Obama about the security of chemical weapons in the Syrian stockpile.

The commander in chief went beyond safety and said: ‘We have been very clear to the Assad regime … that a red line for us is [when] we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilised.’

The term ‘red line’ is the kind of clear, emphatic language major powers use only when they are prepared to back words with action.

A little over a year later, the Assad regime utilised chemical weapons against its own people.

The number of blunders that the President and his administration committed in the ‘red line’ affair is hard to fathom.

Before the President spoke, no one vetted the term and its consequences in the White House policy process and, once the words came out, no one undertook preparations in case Syrian president Bashar al-Assad called Mr Obama’s bluff.

According to reports, no one made the diplomatic rounds to line up the support of allies just in case, or the congressional rounds to line up the support of Congress. No one developed military plans or sent quiet signals to Assad that the US was not to be trifled with on this matter.

These actions are routine when any White House makes as definitive a commitment as the President made, except, apparently, this White House. …

July 20, 2014

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Noah Rothman of Hot Air posts on how Ronald Reagan addressed another Russian atrocity 31 years ago. We have a link to Reagan’s Oval Office address. Nice to hear a real president.

… It is unfair to be too critical of the president for waiting to gather his facts before addressing the situation. But 31 years ago, at a time with far less reliable technology or communications capabilities, President Ronald Reagan immediately addressed an eerily similar situation – when Soviet forces shot down Korean Air Lines Flight 007 over the KamchatkaPeninsula.

On the day of the attack, calling it an “appalling and wanton misdeed,” the president ordered American flags to fly at half-staff at all federal and military installations.

Three days later, Reagan delivered an address to the nation from the Oval Office: …

 

 

Streetwise Professor asks if there is anything that would make this president cancel a fundraiser.

… Obama, certainly, was less than Churchillian or Reaganesque in his first response to the crime over Donetsk. Sayeth Barry: “It looks like it may be a terrible tragedy.”

First: it was not a tragedy. It was an atrocity.

Second: “looks like”? “May be”?

Go out on a limb there, Barry.

Words fail. Truly.

With that box checked, Barry went on to tell some jokes. And give a banal speech about infrastructure or some such. Then he jetted off to a fundraiser. Or maybe it was (according to CBS News) a “political meeting”, as if that makes it all better.

I have a serious question. I mean it. I ask this in all seriousness: Just what would it take for Obama to cancel a fundraiser? …

 

 

President Narcissist has taken to call himself the “bear” when he forays out of his cocoon. Matthew Continetti says he’s more like a cub and that the real bear is in Moscow. 

“The bear is loose!” President Obama has been saying, whenever he leaves the White House to visit Starbucks, or sandwich shops, or burger joints, or BBQ shacks, or neighborhood diners, in his increasingly rote and pathetic attempts to “connect” with “real people.” Obama, we have been told, is frustrated, “restless,” bored with the responsibilities and chores of office. He thinks of himself as the bear—intimidating, wild, untamed, roving—escaping his den. But he is flattering himself. Obama is not the bear. He is the cub: aimless, naïve, self-interested, self-indulgent, irresponsible, irresolute. The bear is in Moscow.

One can trace a line from any global hotspot to Russia and its authoritarian ruler. Iran? Russia has assisted its nuclear program for decades. Syria? Russia is Bashar Assad’s arms dealer. Iraq? Russia is sending men and materiel to the central government. Afghanistan? Putin muscled nearby Kyrgyzstan into closing our air base there, crucial for transport, resupply, and reconnaissance in the war against the Taliban. The contretemps between the United States and Germany is the result of Edward Snowden’s breach of national security. Where is Snowden? In Russia, where he has just asked to have his visa renewed. I wonder if Vladimir Putin will say yes.

Then there is Ukraine, where Putin has been driving events since March, when he illegally annexed Crimea. The West thought sanctions would intimidate Putin, would force him into retreat. For a time, he drew down his troops on the Ukrainian border, leaving the fighting in eastern Ukraine to separatists trained, armed, and led by Russian special forces. The West thought it could ignore the situation. A guerrilla war in the east, it was assumed, does not threaten democracy in Kiev. The Ukrainian economy returned to its lethargic equilibrium. The Ukrainians elected a president. President Obama, in his speech at West Point, trumpeted his Ukraine policy as an example of “our ability to shape world opinion” and “isolate Russia.” …

 

 

If patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel, what is economic patriotism. Asked and answered by David Harsanyi.

So Barack Obama is again using one of the most contemptible phrases in American politics — “economic patriotism.”

There are many credible reasons to despise this rhetorical construct. Patriotism, after all, is the attachment to one’s homeland, a nationalistic devotion to one’s country and the values that make it great. If a person not only resists things that are “patriotic,” but opposes them, then logic dictates that person is being unpatriotic. So the president is really asking one question: Why do you hate America?

Obama has been dropping the phrase for years, though it’s nothing new. In recent history, Paul Tsongas, preparing to run in the Democratic presidential primaries in 1991, demanded that people demonstrate “economic loyalty” to the United States. He argued that “many of those who lament the decline in our standard of living are driving foreign cars” and that this kind of consumer choice would “benefit another country’s team” and hurt the economy. In 1993, the right’s leading isolationist/protectionist Patrick Buchanan used the exact term “economic patriotism” to describe his vision for the future, and these days we have people like Richard Trumka or Katrina Vanden Heuvel arguing that limiting innovation and free trade are forms of patriotism.

Obama takes the idea in a different direction, arguing that when profits go overseas we not only (supposedly) lose jobs here at home, but we damage our future because government can’t expand at the rate he prefers: …

 

 

Ron Christie writes an open letter to the attorney general.

… Just after you assumed office, Mr. Holder, you said America was a “nation of cowards” on matters of race. What is cowardly is the manner in which you, the president, and other officials of this administration have stoked up the racial animus you claim to deplore. America’s first black president was expected to usher in a new era of racial equality. Instead, we have watched the bonds that hold Americans together become more frayed.

We are now more polarized and more divided along racial lines than the day you took office. By recklessly accusing your opponents of racism, you have turned back the clock on race relations in this country. We are all worse off as a result, and weaker as a country. 

Your use of the race card to explain away genuine political opposition to President Obama’s policies upsets many people, particularly black conservatives like myself. You and the president have pandered to Al Sharpton—one of the most divisive figures in our political life, and one who has made his career and fortune by stoking racial animus. Perhaps he’s the one who taught you that cries of racism can be used to stifle legitimate debate. 

You’ve failed me, Mr. Holder. I looked to you as a role model 16 years ago. And I truly believed that you would use your high office and prestige to move America toward racial reconciliation. 

Instead, you and President Obama have sought to divide America for political gain. You asked us at that graduation so many years ago to devote our personal lives not just to doing well but to doing good. If only you could heed your own words.

 

 

Andrew Malcolm has late night humor.

Conan: Obama’s approval rating is at its lowest point ever — 41%. The president said, “When did I become less popular in this country than soccer?”

Meyers: Afghanistan held its presidential election runoff the other day. How it works is: Everyone runs off and whoever’s slowest has to be president of Afghanistan.

Conan: A California man was found to be running a meth lab in a retirement community. Or as he was known to residents, “The guy who stays up until 8.”

Conan: A Texas daycare center was accused of duct-taping children to their mats at nap-time. Parents were outraged. They also wanted to know if it worked.

July 17, 2014

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Ricochet has Tales From a Bomb Shelter.

I really thought I knew.

I mean, I had written about it, raised hell, and described it to the world. During Operation Pillar of Defense, I held a rally in support of Israel and gave a passionate speech: “15 seconds,” I said, ’15 seconds to make sure that you and the people you love are safe”. Imagine the terror, imagine the fear, and imagine not knowing the outcome. And I thought I knew — because I had seen it on YouTube, because I had read about it, and because I had spoken to those who lived it. How much more could there be to it? Turns out quite a lot more.

A week ago, I boarded a plane to Israel with my two sons. It was their first visit, and the excitement was palpable. We had rented a small house in TLV, just between the beach and Shuk HaCarmel, and for five straight days my kids called every day the best of their lives.

I was preparing dinner on the eve of the sixth day, waiting for my friends to arrive for one last night of food, wine, and talking all night. My children were sitting at the table watching a movie. Then I heard the sound — like the entire city was wailing with pain. The loudness of it is so frightening that it takes a few seconds before I even understand what I am hearing.

My first thought is that I have no idea what to do. …

 

 

John Fund thinks the courts may make the president learn to play well with others.

The legal positions of President Obama’s Justice Department have been slapped down unanimously a remarkable 13 times in the Supreme Court in the last two years. Over and over, even Obama’s own two appointees to the court — Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — have held that the president has exceeded his authority and violated the separation of powers. This coming week, we could see the second-highest court in the land rule that the administration broke the law in enforcing a key provision of Obamacare, calling into question once again Obama’s fidelity to the Constitution — and further endangering his signature program.

The case of Halbig v. Sebelius (since renamed Halbig v. Burwell, for the current HHS secretary) was argued before a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit Court in March. It attacks the central nervous system of Obamacare — the government exchanges that were set up to subsidize health insurance for low-income consumers. If the Supreme Court ultimately finds that the Obama administration violated the law in doling out those subsidies, it could force a wholesale revision of Obamacare. In January, The Hill quoted a key Obamacare supporter as saying that Halbig was “probably the most significant existential threat to the Affordable Care Act.” Jonathan Turley, a noted liberal constitutional-law expert at George Washington Law School, recently agreed, writing in the Los Angeles Times that Halbig “could leave Obamacare on life support.”

President Obama has increasingly exasperated both judges and constitutional scholars with his boasts about going around Congress when it doesn’t give him what he wants. …

 

 

Mark Steyn writes on the challenges of diversity.

Texas Governor Rick Perry was criticized for declining to greet President Obama at Austin-BergstromAirport when Air Force One touches down and the bazillion-car motorcade takes off for some vital Democrat fundraisers.

Obama made a conscious decision to, in effect, dissolve the southern border, and, quite reasonably enough, the “unaccompanied minors” of Latin America opted to take him at his word. One of his party’s most senior figures, and the woman who if things go well for them in November will be Speaker of the House and second in line of succession to the presidency, explicitly refuses to recognize the international boundary. Down there for a photo-op the other day, Nancy Pelosi declared: “This is a community with a border going through it.” It’s bogus, so why get hung up on tedious legalistic nonsense like “frontiers”?

Mr Obama and Ms Pelosi apparently see themselves as leaders of some post-Westphalian entity wherein the political elite use the Third World to reconfigure the citizenry to something more to their taste. But, having voluntarily liquidated US sovereignty at the southern border, in what sense then is Obama President of the United States? Why should the head of a sovereign state that’s renounced its sovereignty still expect to be entitled to all the perks thereof – like fawning governors greeting him at the airport? …

 

 

The justice department says we can’t mock the president. The most mockable president in centuries and we can’t have some fun? Charles Cooke at National Review has the story.

Nineteen terrifying words from the Omaha World-Herald:

“The U.S. Department of Justice has joined the discussions over a controversial float in the Norfolk Independence Day parade.”

Thus did the federal government dispatch an emissary to investigate a minor instance of Midwestern dissent.

A quick recap for the happily uninitiated: The “controversial float” in question was one of many included in this year’s Independence Day parade in Norfolk, Neb. The entry, which featured a zombie standing on an outhouse marked “Obama Presidential Library,” was created by a veteran named Dale Remmich, and was designed, Remmich claims, to express the “political disgust” that he feels at the Obama administration’s mismanagement of the Department of Veteran Affairs. As is the habit now, pictures of the float were quickly pushed around the Internet, attracting the attention and disapprobation of such august institutions as the Washington Post, CBS, ABC, and the Huffington Post — and, it seems, the interest of the United States Department of Justice. This week, the World-Herald reports, the DOJ “sent a member of its Community Relations Service team, which gets involved in discrimination disputes, to a Thursday meeting about the issue.” Present at the summit were the NAACP, the mayor of the Nebraska town in which the float was displayed, and the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, which sponsored the event.

Now for the obvious question: Why? What, exactly, was the problem here? Nobody was killed. Nobody was injured. Nobody had their material or spiritual interests injured, nor were they stripped of their livelihoods. …

 

 

If the DOJ wishes to control discord in the republic, perhaps they should turn their attention to Chicago where USA Today reports 82 shootings and 14 deaths in the Fourth of July weekend.

At least 14 people were killed and dozens more wounded in Chicago over the holiday weekend, breaking a relative lull in a city that has been fighting a high-profile battle against the scourge of gun violence.

Chicago has been under scrutiny since 2012, when it was the only city in the nation to record more than 500 homicides. This year, Chicago had 172 homicides through June 30 — nine fewer than the same period last year and 82 fewer than during the first six months of 2012.

While homicides are slightly down, shooting incidents have increased in Chicago during the first half of this year. Police reported 833 shooting incidents at the end of June 2013 compared with 880 shootings as of June 29. The 14 killed over the holiday weekend are among 82 shot in Chicago from late Thursday to early Monday morning.

“Going into a holiday weekend like this, we obviously had a plan— [the] plan included putting hundreds of more officers on the streets at the times that we needed them and in the places we needed them,” said Chicago Police superintendent Garry McCarthy. “What were the results? The results were a lot of shootings and a lot of murders, unfortunately.” …

 

 

Washington Times reports Chicago blacks call obama the worst president ever. Is this another reason for the DOJ to investigate Chicago? Turns out their problem is all the free stuff is going, not to them, but to illegal aliens.

… One man called for Mr. Obama to step down if he continued to shun the city’s problems.

“For the president to set aside all of these funds for immigrants and [have] forsaken the African-American community, I think that’s a disgrace,” the man told the blog Rebel Pundit. “He will go down as the worst president ever elected. Bill Clinton was the African-American president.”

 

 

As Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit is fond of saying, “The country is in the best of hands.” My Fox DC has the story of a TSA agent in Orlando who didn’t know where the District of Columbia is.

You probably learned the 50 United States in elementary school— but don’t forget about the nation’s capital.  An Orlando Transportation Safety Administration agent apparently needed a geography refresher after refusing to let a D.C. man through a security checkpoint last weekend because he didn’t recognize his District of Columbia driver’s license as a valid form of identification. …

July 16, 2014

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Last week Pasternak, this week Shostakovitch. Real Clear History writes on how Dmitri survived Stalin and the rest of the Russian true believers in powerful government. 

Consider a Russian born in 1900 with a natural 70-year lifespan. What are his chances of survival? He would have to endure the First World War, the Revolution, Civil War and famine, Stalinist terror in the 1930s, the invasion of Hitler, the remainder of Stalin’s life, the Khrushchev years, and the first part of the Brezhnev stagnation.

The remarkable Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975), personal target of Joseph Stalin and Party censors, managed to survive all these periods while maintaining his artistic integrity. …

… The artistic constraints imposed on the composer forced him to think deeply about how to express himself truthfully within an external guise of Party orthodoxy. A public figure’s survival in the Stalin era required an astute political eye, adaptability, and a measure of plain luck. Shostakovich was fortunate to have all three of these. What made him particularly successful, in a cultural and historical sense, was that he deployed these gifts within an unforgiving environment while remaining faithful to his creative impulses. …

… The Seventh Symphony in C Major (1942, “Leningrad”) is ostensibly a musical testament to the suffering of the Russian people during the war, but features a significant double meaning. The circumstances of the invasion permitted Shostakovich to skillfully express his true feelings toward the Party and its leader while simultaneously inspiring Soviet citizens, and indeed other Allied citizens, to defy Hitler’s armies.

The Seventh Symphony received worldwide praise as a work of resistance against Nazi totalitarianism; it is this, but it is dually an indictment of Stalin’s brutality. Shostakovich wrote, damningly, that the symphony was about the Leningrad that “Stalin destroyed and Hitler merely finished off.” Thus, Shostakovich was able to condemn two different, albeit comparably terrible, tragedies in one artistic statement, and in so doing received exaltation as a hero. …

 

 

 

Turning our attention to another musical genre, The Village Voice has the story about Dave Robinson, the record producer who made Bob Marley a household name.

At the time of his death, in May 1981, Bob Marley was 36 years old, reggae’s biggest star, and the father of at least eleven children. He was not, however, a big seller.

For Dave Robinson, this presented an opportunity.

Two years after Marley’s passing, Chris Blackwell, the founder of Marley’s label, Island Records, brought Robinson in to run his U.K. operation. Robinson’s first assignment was to put out a compilation of Bob Marley’s hits. He took one look at the artist’s sales figures and was shocked.

Marley’s best-selling album, 1977′s Exodus, had only moved about 650,000 units in the U.S. and fewer than 200,000 in the U.K. They were not shabby numbers, but they weren’t in line with his profile. …

… “My vision of Bob from a marketing point of view,” Robinson says, “was to sell him to the white world.”

The result of that coolly pragmatic vision was Legend: The Best of Bob Marley and the Wailers, an album that became one of the top-selling records of all time, far exceeding even the ambitious goals Robinson had set for it. Unlike the Backstreet Boys’ Millennium, ‘N Sync’s No Strings Attached and many other best-selling albums in recent decades, Legend isn’t a time capsule of a passing musical fad. Selling roughly 250,000 units annually in the U.S. alone, it has become a rite of passage in pop-music puberty. It’s no wonder that on July 1 Universal released yet another deluxe reissue of the album, this time celebrating its 30th anniversary.

Few artists have hits collections that become their definitive works. But if you have one Bob Marley album, it’s probably Legend, which is one reason members of his former backing band, the Wailers, are performing it in its entirety on the road this summer. Legend also defines its genre unlike any other album, introducing record buyers to reggae in one safe and secure package. In fact, it has been the top-selling reggae album in the U.S. for eight of the past ten years. …

 

 

A few years ago, Nicholas Kristoff went to an island of the coast of Kenya seeking to answer questions grown out of the legend of an ancient (1421) Chinese shipwreck on the coast of Africa.

From the sea, the tiny East African island of Pate, just off the Kenyan coast, looks much as it must have in the 15th century: an impenetrable shore of endless mangrove trees. As my little boat bounced along the waves in the gray dawn, I could see no antennae or buildings or even gaps where trees had been cut down, no sign of human habitation, nothing but a dense and mysterious jungle.

The boatman drew as close as he could to a narrow black-sand beach, and I splashed ashore. My local Swahili interpreter led the way through the forest, along a winding trail scattered with mangoes, coconuts and occasional seashells deposited by high tides. The tropical sun was firmly overhead when we finally came upon a village of stone houses with thatched roofs, its dirt paths sheltered by palm trees. The village’s inhabitants, much lighter-skinned than people on the Kenyan mainland, emerged barefoot to stare at me with the same curiosity with which I was studying them. These were people I had come halfway around the world to see, in the hope of solving an ancient historical puzzle.

“Tell me,” I asked the first group I encountered, “where did the people here come from? Long ago, did foreign sailors ever settle here?”

The answer was a series of shrugs. “I’ve never heard about that,” one said. “You’ll have to ask the elders.”

I tried several old men and women without success. Finally the villagers led me to the patriarch of the village, Bwana Mkuu Al-Bauri, the keeper of oral traditions. He was a frail old man with gray stubble on his cheeks, head and chest. He wore a yellow sarong around his waist; his ribs pressed through the taut skin on his bare torso. Al-Bauri hobbled out of his bed, resting on a cane and the arm of a grandson. He claimed to be 121 years old; a pineapple-size tumor jutted from the left side of his chest.

“I know this from my grandfather, who himself was the keeper of history here,” the patriarch told me in an unexpectedly clear voice. “Many, many years ago, there was a ship from China that wrecked on the rocks off the coast near here. The sailors swam ashore near the village of Shanga — my ancestors were there and saw it themselves. The Chinese were visitors, so we helped those Chinese men and gave them food and shelter, and then they married our women. Although they do not live in this village, I believe their descendants still can be found somewhere else on this island.”

I almost felt like hugging Bwana Al-Bauri. For months I had been poking around obscure documents and research reports, trying to track down a legend of an ancient Chinese shipwreck that had led to a settlement on the African coast. My interest arose from a fascination with what to me is a central enigma of the millennium: why did the West triumph over the East?

For most of the last several thousand years, it would have seemed far likelier that Chinese or Indians, not Europeans, would dominate the world by the year 2000, and that America and Australia would be settled by Chinese rather than by the inhabitants of a backward island called Britain. The reversal of fortunes of East and West strikes me as the biggest news story of the millennium, and one of its most unexpected as well.

As a resident of Asia for most of the past 13 years, I’ve been searching for an explanation. It has always seemed to me that the turning point came in the early 1400′s, when Admiral Zheng He sailed from China to conquer the world. Zheng He (pronounced jung huh) was an improbable commander of a great Chinese fleet, in that he was a Muslim from a rebel family and had been seized by the Chinese Army when he was still a boy. Like many other prisoners of the time, he was castrated — his sexual organs completely hacked off, a process that killed many of those who suffered it. But he was a brilliant and tenacious boy who grew up to be physically imposing. A natural leader, he had the good fortune to be assigned, as a houseboy, to the household of a great prince, Zhu Di. …

 

 

The voyages of Zheng He have led to a theory propounded in Gavin Menzies’ book 1421:The Year China Discovered America. The blog How Stuff Works have examined Menzies’ claims and finds them wanting.

… From its introduction in 2003, Gavin Menzies’ 1421 theory has come under assault. The writing that seeks to disprove Menzies is at least as long as his book. One question perhaps looms largest when approaching the 1421 theory: If the Chinese had a presence in the Americas prior to Christopher Columbus, then why isn’t their mark left indelibly on the face of American civilization?

The Norse, who sailed as far west as Newfoundland in their travels across the Atlantic, left remnants of their visits to North America. Their folklore includes accounts of the Vikings’ encounters with Native Americans. The crumbling remains of the stone outposts they built during their stay can still be seen. This was 1,000 years ago, and 500 years before Columbus’ voyage. Yet the Vikings brief settlement in North America is still evident. If the Chinese had such a thorough impact on societies in the Americas just 70 years before Columbus’ arrival, then why isn’t evidence of their presence everywhere?

What’s more, there’s a distinct lack of cross-cultural pollination between the new world and China. When the Europeans arrived in the Americas, they brought with them things that have never before been seen in the continents, like steel and horses. But more importantly, they took back exotic treasures from the new world. Maize and tomatoes, along with vast amounts of plundered gold, found its way to Europe upon the ships of returning explorers. Where’s the Incan gold or the corn of the Aztecs in China? …

 

 

The Economist posts on the days when New York City becomes ManhattanHenge.

WHEN traffic lights changed to red on the evening of July 11th, hundreds of New Yorkers raced out to the middle of Manhattan’s roads, cameras in hand, safety be damned. They faced west, where the setting sun was lighting up the sky. The skyscrapers and high-rises framed the firey orb which lit up the surrounding glass, brick and stone buildings spectacularly. For the next 15 minutes or so, the pattern repeated. Traffic lights changed, the sun worshippers took to the street to capture the stunning sight, until the sun disappeared. The cosmic phenomenon is known as Manhattanhenge, or the Manhattan Solstice. …

… The phenomenon is not designed by gods or man. The perfect alignment is a cosmically happy accident. Manhattan’s street grid was designed for 1m people in 1811, when the population was only 100,000. It runs east to west from the East River to the Hudson River and roughly north to south—28.9 degrees east of north, to be exact. Because the street grid is not strictly laid out to true north, Manhattanhenge takes place around May 28th and again around July 11th, each date roughly three weeks before and after the summer solstice. The relatively low topography in New Jersey across the Hudson River to the west, coupled with Manhattan being an island, means the horizon is mostly unobstructed. The best places to view the sun and the blazing skyscrapers are at 14th, 23rd, 34th, 42nd and 57th Streets. …

July 15, 2014

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David Harsanyi says, “actually getting rich is Hillary’s greatest achievement.”

… Which brings me to Hillary Clinton, whose clumsy efforts to convince America that she’s a commoner aren’t only transparently silly, but intentionally discount her most impressive gift: the ability to convince rational people to pony up $200,000 (the Wall Street Journal says she was paid $300,000 for a speech at UCLA) to hear her talk about a career in politics. One thing’s for sure: those students would benefit far more from a talk about the inner working of Clinton Inc.’s multimillion-dollar business than they will sitting through an hour of platitudes about public service.

If I had to pick a reason to vote for Hillary, it would be her wealth. She should own it. It’s her greatest success. Through her speaking engagements and terrible ghost-written books, she is worth somewhere between $25 and $50 million. Bill’s net worth is around $80 million (or more). Even combined, that’s nothing like the Koch money, or even John Kerry or Mitt Romney money, as the Washington Post helpfully pointed out recently. …

… Certainly, Hillary is more gifted at making money than she was at being First Lady, a stint that featured a disastrous stab at health-care policy and her husband being tricked into having an affair by a shadowy conspiracy. She is undoubtedly a better businesswoman than she was a Senator, where the single consequential vote she took turned out, in her own words, to be “a mistake.” And she is a far better businesswoman than she was a secretary of State, a job that doesn’t seem to feature any achievements worth remembering by anyone. …

 

 

Telegraph, UK says sales of her book have tanked.

Hillary Clinton’s memoirs have been replaced at the top of the New York Times best sellers list by an expose of the Clintons’ rocky relationship with Barack Obama.

Edward Klein’s book “Blood Feud” now tops the combined print and non-fiction table in what is being seen as a blow to the former secretary of state’s prestige ahead of a likely run for the presidency in 2016.

One expert suggested that the less than expected sales suggested that there was some “Clinton fatigue” among the American public.

According to the latest authoritative Nielsen BookScan ratings which covers 85 per cent of the US market, Hard Choices now stands at number nine in the list of hardcover sales. …

 

 

According to Jennifer Rubin the disaster of the book roll-out has some Dems convinced they have a Hillary problem.

You expect Hillary Clinton to be panned by conservatives. But increasingly she is getting some brutal reviews from, of all places, MSNBC commentators. Mark Halperin broke the news to the network’s liberal audience: “The biggest development in the 2016 race in the last month is Republicans do not fear anything like they did before. She’s never going to be a great candidate. She’s never going to have the fingertip feel of politics of her husband, Barack Obama or George Bush. I think the story to some extent is the people around her failing to prepare her for the most obvious questions imaginable.”

Or maybe they did try to prepare her and she wasn’t receptive. (Worse, could be this be the improved version?)

With no specific GOP opponent journalists covering the lead-up to the 2016 presidential race don’t have much to do but dissect her latest gaffes and try to maintain some suspense  in a race with a candidate they’ve been covering for decades. (Will she run? Why can’t she talk about money?) Some rather frank criticism of her from liberal media and mainstream reporters may provoke some Democratic soul-searching. …

 

 

An example of Mrs. Clinton’s problem with the media is Maureen Dowd’s column this past Sunday.

CHELSEA CLINTON never acted out during the eight years she came of age as America’s first daughter.

No ditching of her Secret Service detail. No fake IDs for underage tippling. No drug scandal. No court appearance in tank top and toe ring. Not even any dirty dancing.

Despite a tough role as the go-between in the highly public and embarrassing marital contretemps of her parents, Chelsea stayed classy.

So it’s strange to see her acting out in a sense now, joining her parents in cashing in to help feed the rapacious, gaping maw of Clinton Inc.

With her 1 percenter mother under fire for disingenuously calling herself “dead broke” when she left the White House, why would Chelsea want to open herself up to criticism that she is gobbling whopping paychecks not commensurate with her skills, experience or role in life?

As the 34-year-old tries to wean some of the cronies from the Clinton Foundation — which is, like the Clintons themselves, well-intended, wasteful and disorganized — Chelsea is making speeches that go into foundation coffers. She is commanding, as The Times’s Amy Chozick reported, up to $75,000 per appearance.

Chozick wrote: “Ms. Clinton’s speeches focus on causes like eradicating waterborne diseases. (‘I’m obsessed with diarrhea’ is a favorite line.)” …

 

 

Joel Kotkin says there will be no recovery without the middle class. 

What if they gave a recovery, and the middle class were never invited? Well, that’s an experiment we are running now, and, even with the recent strengthening of the jobs market, it’s not looking very good.

Over the last five years, Wall Street and the investor class have been on a bull run, but the economy has been, at best, torpid for the vast majority of the population. Despite blather about our “democratic capitalism,” stock ownership is increasingly concentrated with the wealthy as the middle class retrenches. The big returns that hedge funds, real estate trusts or venture capitalist receive are simply outside the reach of the vast majority.

A recent study by the Russell Sage Foundation suggests these patterns of inequality, which have been developing over the last several decades, have become more pronounced in the post-Recession years. In 2013 the wealth of those at the 90th and 95th percentiles was actually higher than 10 years ago. Everyone else is lower.

The labor market may be strengthening, with the unemployment rate falling to 6.1% last month, but too many of the new jobs are low wage or part time. They aren’t providing the kick the economy got in the last, more broad-based expansion from robust consumer spending.

Wage growth has been weak, rising 2.5% annually since 2009, according to Bloomberg, compared with a 4.3% annual rise from 2001 to 2007. …

 

 

Similar thoughts from Mort Zuckerman.

There has been a distinctive odor of hype lately about the national jobs report for June. Most people will have the impression that the 288,000 jobs created last month were full-time. Not so.

The Obama administration and much of the media trumpeting the figure overlooked that the government numbers didn’t distinguish between new part-time and full-time jobs. Full-time jobs last month plunged by 523,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. What has increased are part-time jobs. They soared by about 800,000 to more than 28 million. Just think of all those Americans working part time, no doubt glad to have the work but also contending with lower pay, diminished benefits and little job security.

On July 2 President Obama boasted that the jobs report “showed the sixth straight month of job growth” in the private economy. “Make no mistake,” he said. “We are headed in the right direction.” What he failed to mention is that only 47.7% of adults in the U.S. are working full time. Yes, the percentage of unemployed has fallen, but that’s worth barely a Bronx cheer. It reflects the bleak fact that 2.4 million Americans have become discouraged and dropped out of the workforce. You might as well say that the unemployment rate would be zero if everyone quit looking for work.

Last month involuntary part-timers swelled to 7.5 million, compared with 4.4 million in 2007. Way too many adults now depend on the low-wage, part-time jobs that teenagers would normally fill. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen had it right in March when she said: “The existence of such a large pool of partly unemployed workers is a sign that labor conditions are worse than indicated by the unemployment rate.” …

July 14, 2014

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Looking over this administration’s foolishness, Victor Davis Hanson says the chickens have come home to roost.

Often, crazy things seem normal for a time because logical catastrophes do not immediately follow.

A deeply suspicious Richard Nixon systematically and without pushback for years undermined and politicized almost every institution of the federal government, from the CIA and the FBI to the IRS and the attorney general’s office. Nixon seemed to get away with it — until his second term. Once the public woke up, however, the eventual accounting proved devastating: resignation of a sitting president, prison sentences for his top aides, collapse of the Republican party, government stasis, a ruined economy, the destruction of the Vietnam peace accords that had led to a viable South Vietnam, the end of Henry Kissinger’s diplomatic breakthroughs, and a generation of abject cynicism about government. Did Nixon ever grasp that such destruction was the natural wage of his own paranoia?

In the post-Watergate climate of reform, for nearly three years a naïve Jimmy Carter gave utopian speeches about how American forbearance would end the Cold War and create a new world order based on human rights — until America’s abdication started to erode the preexisting global order. Scary things followed, such as the fall of the shah of Iran, the rise of Iranian theocracy, the taking of American hostages in Tehran, revolutions and insurrection throughout Central America, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, radical Islamists taking over Mecca, more gas lines, continued stagflation, and China invading Vietnam. Did the puritanical Carter ever understand what might be the consequences of his own self-righteousness in an imperfect world?

Barack Obama likewise has done some crazy things that seemed for years to have no ramifications. Unfortunately, typical of the ways of Nemesis (a bitter goddess who waits until the opportune moment to demand payment for past hubris), suddenly the bills for Obama’s six years of folly are coming due for the American people.

When a president occasionally fails to tell the truth, you get a scandal like the monitoring of the Associated Press reporters. When a president serially fails to tell the truth, you get that plus the scandals involving the IRS, the NSA, the VA, Benghazi, and too many others to mention.

The same is true abroad. …

 

 

Kimberley Strassel with an example of this foolishness.

In the smallest stories we sometimes find the biggest themes. The small story of the past month has been dysfunction at a backwater federal agency known as the Chemical Safety Board. Yet in this tale of obstruction, bullying and lawlessness we find what is now the clear pattern of the Obama administration.

If you’ve never heard of the CSB, join the rest of humanity. Created by Congress in 1990, the CSB is charged with probing industrial chemical accidents. Like the National Transportation Safety Administration, it’s a rare entity with no regulatory authority; CSB’s only job is to investigate and make recommendations. Its board and staff have mainly been wonky safety experts, and the agency largely devoid of political controversy.

That changed with this administration. The scandal popped in late 2013 when the Environmental Protection Agency’s inspector general, Arthur Elkins (charged with CSB oversight), sent a “seven-day letter” to Congress. Said letters are rare, since they are used (reads the statute) to convey to legislators “particularly serious or flagrant problems” at an agency. …

 

 

Andrew Claven thinks the country will be able to overcome what this president has left behind.

… In fact, I would predict that almost everything Obama has done in his time in office will vanish without a trace within a decade or two. Obamacare, the clown car foreign policy, the corruption…  I think it has caused some problems and will cause some more, but then I think we’ll shrug it all off and move on. Even some of the cleverer subterranean stuff, like favoring cities over suburbs, will only have a long-lasting effect if, in fact, the suburban era is over. If people still want their houses and lawns and cars, they’ll get them back, no matter what oppressive regulations this guy puts in place.

Many people on the right think Obama is an Evil Leftist Genius. Not me. I think he is a hapless putz. I think his ideas are all wrong, his application of his ideas is incompetent, and the chaos that he causes with his wrongness and incompetence will not lead in the direction he thinks it will.

I think when the history of the 21st century is written, Obama will not merit more than a single line. Even the fact that he was the first black president may come to seem irrelevant in a couple of decades. In which case, he will not merit any line at all.

The guy is just a sad little schmuck who played cynical politics well and got promoted way above his competence. His policies won’t change the face of the nation. They’ll just make a mess that those who come after him will have to clean up.

 

 

Writing in the National Review, A. J. Delgado argues the costs of immigration amnesty will fall most heavily on African Americans.

One of the sleeper issues surrounding the debate on amnesty for illegal immigrants – an inconvenient one that no proponent of a widespread amnesty wishes to acknowledge – is the devastating effect so-called immigration reform will have on African Americans.

The black unemployment rate is almost 11 percent, far higher than that of any other group profiled by labor statistics. African Americans are disproportionately employed in lower-skilled jobs – the very same jobs immigrants take. As Steven Camarota asked in a recent column, why double immigration when so many people already aren’t working?

Who will be harmed most by amnesty? African-Americans.

The issue resurfaced this week when a YouTube video emerged of two young African-Americans confronting pro-illegal-immigration demonstrators in Murrieta, California. Murrieta is one of the towns in which undocumented minors are being relocated — and supporters are squaring off with protestors.

The young man argues: …

 

 

Road & Track publishes the unbelievable costs of maintaining super cars. A new clutch for a Porsche Carrera GT is $25,000. A brake job – $30,000. 

On paper, a used super-exotic makes sense. You get the mind-blowing performance and heartbreaking looks, but at a lower price than a new hypercar, and with no yearlong stay on a dealer’s waiting list. But—surprise!—the buy-in is only half the damage. Parts are far from cheap and often hard to come by. Many jobs require purpose-built tools. And for countless reasons, supercars are rarely designed for ease of maintenance—the same task that takes an afternoon on your mother’s Toyota could consume five days on a McLaren. We polled owners and mechanics to find out what makes working on these cars aggravating, expensive, and just plain weird. …

July 13, 2014

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David Harsanyi writes on the NY Times bias against Israel.

The New York Times issued a correction today to fix a demonstrably false editorial that claimed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spent “days of near silence” before condemning the murder of Arab teenager Mohammed Abu Khdeir. Netanyahu had, in fact, called the killing an “abominable murder,” and on the day of the killing issued a statement instructing his minister for internal security to investigate the crime. Three Israeli suspects were arrested and have since confessed to the murder.

Even with a correction, the editorial in question was a mess from the top down. The NewRepublic has a good rundown of other egregious errors and misleading points that won’t be getting much-needed corrections. It’s likely that the editorial page was simply relying on the news side to feed its preconceived biases (though one story had already reported on Netanyahu’s comments), which is a mistake considering the NYT’s reporting exhibits absolutely no journalistic standards when it comes to the topic.

This is nothing new. Let’s momentarily set aside the decades-long institutional bias at the paper and simply focus on factual errors of the past few years: …

 

 

Seth Mandel has more on the Times’ editorial that prompted Harsanyi’s post.

Earlier this week I wrote about the thoroughly dishonest and ignorant editorial in the New York Times on the recent abduction and killing of four teens in Israel. The Times strove for moral equivalence since the victims included Jews and an Arab. To review: the Times editorial wrongly accused Benjamin Netanyahu of a delay in condemning the killing of an Arab teen and the editors took a Netanyahu quote that denounced the desire for vengeance and claimed it meant Netanyahu was doing the opposite and inciting vigilante terrorism. After wide condemnation, the Times corrected the editorial. Sort of. …

 

 

4th of July post from Mark Steyn.

… Speaking of lèse-majesté, even when our sovereign liege lord is not present, it is improper to disrespect him. For example, Friday’s Fourth of July parade in Norfolk, Nebraska included a float with a wooden outhouse labeled “Obama Presidential Library”. According to the gentlemen of the press, the float has “drawn criticism“. I should certainly hope so. I assumed that the criticism it had drawn would be from freeborn citizens hoping for something a little less generic and anodyne in the way of Presidential mockery.

But no, the court eunuchs of the media are huffin’ an’ a-puffin’ about how this time the Obama-haters have gone too far:

Norfolk City Councilman Dick Pfeil told the Omaha World-Herald that he was unhappy with the float, and he wanted to make clear the city had not approved it.

Because nothing better exemplifies the spirit of Independence Day than having your float approved by the government.

 

 

Charles Krauthammer says an immigration fix is a no-brainer.

… Obama blames the crisis on Republicans for failing to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

More nonsense. It’s a total non sequitur. Comprehensive reform would not have prevented the current influx. Indeed, any reform that amnesties 11 million illegal immigrants simply reinforces the message that if you come here illegally, eventually you will be allowed to stay.

It happens that I support immigration reform. I support amnesty. I have since 2006. But only after we secure the border.

Which begins with completing the fencing along the Mexican frontier. Using 2009 Government Accountability Office estimates, that would have cost up to $6.6 billion. Obama will now spend more than half that sum to accommodate a mass migration that would have been prevented by just such a barrier.

But a fence is for the long term. For the immediate crisis, the answer is equally, blindingly clear: Eliminate the Central American exception and enforce the law.

It must happen. The nightmare will continue until it does. The only question is: How long until Obama is forced to do the obvious?

 

 

The big sports news of the summer was LeBron James returning to Cleveland. John Kass of Chicago claims it’s a Midwestern thing.

If you’re from the Midwest, you probably hated LeBron James.

Who didn’t?

Not true hatred, of course. I’m talking about sports hatred.

It’s not something you act on. But it’s bitter, and it just sits there on your heart as you watch that other team celebrate or that other player with the rings kissing the trophy, that one athlete who seems to cut your heart out year after year.

We’ve seen such athletes before. And LeBron is one of them.

But no matter how hard I try, I can’t hate him anymore. And you probably don’t hate him anymore either, not the way we once did. That’s gone.

LeBron is going home to Cleveland after four years in Miami, four years of SouthBeach glamour, four NBA Finals and two championship rings.

He’s devious enough to have planned it. He left Cleveland for Miami, and during those four years, Cleveland hit rock bottom, and Cavaliers fans hated him the most. Over those years, the team picked up plenty of young talent.

So LeBron now returns to reap the love and the rings to come, and try as I might, I can’t hate him anymore. Perhaps it’s because I can recognize a pattern in all this. …

… But if you’re from the Midwest and you’ve gone away, then returned, determined to stick it out, then you’ll understand. And you’ll understand LeBron.

“Before anyone ever cared where I would play basketball, I was a kid from northeast Ohio. It’s where I walked,” James was quoted as saying by SI.com. “It’s where I ran. It’s where I cried. It’s where I bled. It holds a special place in my heart. People there have seen me grow up. I sometimes feel like I’m their son. Their passion can be overwhelming. But it drives me. I want to give them hope when I can. I want to inspire them when I can.”

Reading that, I know what he was doing in SouthBeach for those four years he was away from Ohio. …

 

 

And then there is a speech by the president. Terry Jeffrey said he talked about himself. No news there.

… The White House presented Obama’s speech, which the president delivered at Austin’s Paramount Theatre, as “Remarks by the President on the Economy.” The remarks, the White House reports, ran 40 minutes, and the full transcript (including annotations for “laughter” and “applause”) is more than 5,500 words.

By contrast, President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address was only 272 words–and did not include any form of the first person singular.

In President Obama’s speech, he used a first person singular, on average, every 12 seconds. At that rate, had Obama spoken for just 15 more minutes, he would have used the first person singular more than 272 times in one speech—exceeding all the words in the Gettysburg Address.

In one 68-word passage–in which he vowed to act unilaterally if Congress did not enact legislation he liked–Obama used the first person singular five more times than the zero times Lincoln used it in his 272 words at Gettysburg.