October 30, 2014

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Now even the liberal media folks are in on the jokes; the jokes that the country’s joke president picked for our government. Politico writes on the Susan Rice and Chuck Hagel calling them the “Team of Bumblers.”

When President Obama, after months of equivocation over how to respond to the takeover of parts of Iraq and Syria by radical militants, announced in September that the United States would “lead a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat,” the White House swung quickly into action, sending proposed legislation to train and equip Syrian rebels to Capitol Hill that same day.

Unfortunately, the White House failed to consult with the Pentagon—which would be doing most of the rolling back—on the timing or details of the announcement.

According to multiple sources, behind the scenes a few things went badly awry in the launch of Obama’s new policy. First, the Pentagon was surprised by the president’s timing, according to a senior defense official. “We didn’t know it was going to be in the speech,” he said, referring to Obama’s Sept. 10 address to the nation. Second, the White House neglected to give Pentagon lawyers a chance to revise and approve the proposed legislative language before it went to the Hill, which is considered standard practice. Staffers working for Rep. Buck McKeon, the Republican chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said they were appalled by what they saw: …

… Indeed, the Syrian-rebel incident recalled a more famous instance of White House surprise tactics a year earlier, when after a stroll on the White House lawn with chief of staff Denis McDonough, Obama embarrassed Kerry by abruptly deciding to ask for congressional approval for bombing the regime of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad—only hours after Kerry had publicly declared that Assad was facing imminent action. (Ironically, after Congress quickly balked at approval, humiliating Obama, it was Kerry who rescued the president by securing an agreement with Russian help to force Assad to dismantle the chemical weapons that had prompted the threatened U.S. strike in the first place.)

In their recent memoirs, former defense secretaries Robert Gates and Leon Panetta also have described the White House-centric foreign policy of the Obama administration—in Panetta’s case, a White House that he said was so “eager to rid itself of Iraq” it rejected Pentagon advice about the need for residual troops in Iraq after 2011, opening the way for ISIL. Gates was even more pointed, writing that “suspicion and distrust of senior military officers by senior White House officials—including the president and vice president—became a big problem for me.” …

… McKeon himself says he was astonished when Rice found no time to sit down with him after he returned from a trip to the Middle East and meetings with key foreign leaders, and later when he realized that the White House had sent the administration’s request to arm the Syrian rebels to his committee without getting prior input from the Pentagon on the legislative language. Rice is rarely heard in public except when she very occasionally appears on the Sunday talk shows—and then more times than not, it seems, in a bumbling way. (Most recently, by saying Turkey would supply bases for strikes against ISIL, only to be undercut by Ankara’s denial hours later; that followed a much-criticized performance describing former Taliban captive Bowe Bergdahl’s Army service as “honorable” despite the murky circumstances of his disappearance and capture; and her now-infamous explanation of the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, after which she was blasted by Republicans for appearing to play down terrorism links.) …

… But what might be missing most from the administration—at least according to its critics—is a forceful strategist who is able to push the president (who remains, for the most part, his own No. 1 strategist) to be more decisive. It is not unreasonable to suppose that Rice feels somewhat snake-bit by her long and traumatic public trial over Benghazi, and the difficulties she has long had in her dealings with Capitol Hill. After her TV appearance on Benghazi, she sought to preserve her candidacy for secretary of state with a series of strikingly unsuccessful meetings on Capitol Hill in which she failed to impress even moderate Republicans such as Sen. Susan Collins of Maine. She also found herself facing resistance from foreign-policy elites who questioned her temperament and her record, including her past close relations with African dictators such as Paul Kagame of Rwanda. …



Bret Stephens, in a timely piece, writes on the crisis in our relationship with Israel.

… The latest eruption of pettiness—when marriages are in trouble, it’s always the petty things that tell—was the very public refusal of John Kerry and Joe Biden to meet with Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon during his visit to Washington last week. Mr. Yaalon was quoted earlier this year saying some impolitic things about the U.S. secretary of state, including that he was “obsessive and messianic” and that “the only thing that can save us is if Kerry wins the Nobel Prize and leaves us alone.”

The comments were made privately but were leaked to the press. Mr. Yaalon apologized for them. His meeting with Chuck Hagel at the Pentagon last week was all smiles. Asked by the Washington Post’s Lally Weymouth about the Kerry kerfuffle, he replied, “We overcame that.”

Or not.

“Despite the fact that Yaalon’s requests to meet with the senior members of the Obama administration were declined over a week ago, Washington waited until the visit ended before making the story public in order to humiliate the Israeli defense minister,” Ha’aretz reported. …



An article in The Atlantic shows how timely Bret Stephens was. John Hinderaker posts;

In case you missed it, the Obama administration (a “senior administration official”) has gone on record calling Benjamin Netanyahu a “chickenshit.” Somehow, that seems like a poor–not to mention vulgar–turn of phrase. The Netanyahu family is not known for its “chickenshit” qualities. Let’s just say that in his youth, Benjamin did not belong to a “Choom Gang.” …



Hinderaker has more.

… But consider: the “senior Obama administration official” made the comment in a conversation with a reporter, Goldberg, who was working on a story about the strained relationship between the Obama and Netanyahu governments. He must have known that the “chickenshit” characterization would be quoted, albeit anonymously. He must have wanted it to be quoted. He must have known that it would garner a great deal of attention. And Goldberg, who spends a lot of time talking with members of the Obama administration about Israel, considered the remark “representative” of the ways in which members of the two governments talk about each other.

So was the Obama administration’s repudiation of the senior official’s remarks merely pro forma? It would seem so. Today reporters asked both John Earnest, on behalf of the White House, and Jen Psaki, on behalf of the State Department, whether the administration will try to identify the senior official and set him straight. The answer? No, of course not. …



And Jennifer Rubin comments.

… The immature and deplorable insult is nothing all that new. Whether it is former negotiator Martin Indyk accusing Israel of killing the peace process or the president off-mike complaining about having to deal with Netanyahu constantly, the administration’s animosity is never far from the surface. That such a senior official could feel so confident in his slur says volumes about the environment at the White House. Even more telling, a White House spokesman would only say that the comments were “inappropriate and counterproductive,” not false or unfair or outrageous.

This is yet one more reason to rebuke the president, his foreign policy and his staff. If the president were truly upset about the speech, he would find the staff member who made the remarks and fire that person. By the White House’s initial statement, however, it seems like business as usual around there. …

October 29, 2014

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Looks like the GOP will have some good results next week. With an example of Colorado, John Fund reminds us we have to have a win large enough to cover the margin of Dem voting fraud.

Many liberals are adamant there is no threat of voter fraud that justifies efforts to improve the integrity of elections. “There is no real concrete evidence of voter fraud,” tweeted Donna Brazile, former acting chair of the Democratic National Committee, this week. “It’s a big ass lie.”

James O’Keefe, the guerilla filmmaker who brought down the ACORN voter-registration fraudsters in 2010 and forced the resignation of NPR executives, politely disagrees. Today, he is releasing some new undercover footage that raises disturbing questions about ballot integrity in Colorado, the site of fiercely contested races for the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House, and the governorship. When he raised the issue of filling out some of the unused ballots that are mailed to every household in the state this month, he was told by Meredith Hicks, the director of Work for Progress, a liberal group funded by Democratic Super PACS.: “That is not even like lying or something, if someone throws out a ballot, like if you want to fill it out you should do it.” She then brazenly offered O’Keefe, disguised as a middle-aged college instructor, a job with her group.

The video of O’Keefe’s encounters with other operatives is equally disturbing.  He has a conversation with Greenpeace employee Christina Topping, and suggests he might have access to unused ballots from people who have recently moved out of college fraternity houses. “I mean it is putting the votes to good use,” she responds. “So really, truly, like yeah, that is awesome.”

Colorado secretary of state Scott Gessler, along with several county election clerks, have raised warning flags that a new state law that automatically mails a ballot to everyone is an engraved invitation to commit fraud. “Sending ballots to people who did not even ask for them or have moved out of state is asking for trouble” he told me. …



Andrew McCarthy covers Ron Klain’s first job for the administration – the Solyndra bust. The denouement (bankruptcy) was coming just days before the elections and the fixers managed to put it off until the day after the election. Here’s the end of McCarthy’s piece.

… This is where the Energy Protection Act’s only sensible aspect is supposed to kick in. The law stipulates that, in the event a company in which the government has invested the public’s money goes bust, taxpayers must be prioritized over company stakeholders when any remaining assets of the bankrupt business are sold. That should have happened with Solyndra. But remember, this is the lobbyist-laden, crony-socialist Obama administration we’re talking about.

OMB officials fully understood that there was no economic sense in the Solyndra restructuring proposal. The government loan put the public first in line for proceeds on the sale of Solyndra assets. With the company hurtling toward inevitable bankruptcy, an immediate liquidation under the original loan terms would net taxpayers a much better deal — about $170 million better. As congressional investigators later learned, so compelling was the argument against restructuring (i.e., the argument for faithfully executing the law) that OMB feared “questions will be asked” if the Department of Energy proceeded with it.

Yet the Obama DOE permitted the Solyndra backers to renegotiate the terms anyway. Preposterously, DOE rationalized that the restructuring was necessary “to create a situation whereby investors felt there was a value in their investment.” Of course, when commerce is not rigged by the government, the value in an investment is the value created by the business in which the investment is made. Here, Solyndra’s business operations produced only losses. New investment in the failing company could be enticed only by an invalid restructuring that prioritized investors over taxpayers — the kind of scheme from which faithful enforcement of the Energy Policy Act is supposed to protect the public.

In February 2011, in exchange for lending some of their own money, Solyndra stakeholders were given priority over taxpayers with respect to the first $75 million in the event the company filed for bankruptcy. A few months later, Solyndra did precisely that.

Negotiations over the restructuring deal had begun in 2010. The time they bought helped delay Solyndra’s implosion beyond the midterm elections. Yet with collapse looming, the company still decided that autumn to lay off nearly 20 percent of its work force. On October 25, 2010, just a week before the midterms, Solyndra CEO Brian Harris alerted the Obama DOE that in three days, the company would shut down its original factory and begin shedding employees and contractors.

The day before that scheduled October 28 announcement, panicked White House energy adviser Heather Zichal e-mailed the redoubtable Ron Klain — as well as Valerie Jarrett and Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer — explaining: “Here’s the deal: Solyndra is going to announce they are laying off 200 of their 1,200 workers. No es bueno.”

Republicans on a House committee investigating Solyndra subsequently learned that DOE pressured the company to delay the announcement. It was finally made on November 3 . . . the day after the midterm elections.

Well, well, well. Here we are just two weeks before the 2014 midterms and Ron Klain is back to manage another crisis — an infectious-disease outbreak. Sure he’s a political fixer, not an epidemiologist, but rest assured that Klain will keep us promptly apprised of all Ebola developments without ever glancing at a calendar or a poll.



Dan Henninger thinks Klain may be the last fixer.

In “Pulp Fiction,” a movie about crime, there is a character named The Wolf. The Wolf is known as a “cleaner.” His line of work is cleaning up the mess made by incompetent criminals. As played by Harvey Keitel, the cleaner is a man of focus, competence and authority. I thought of the cleaner when President Obama called in Ron Klain.

Mr. Obama said Mr. Klain would be the Ebola czar. But the rest of the Beltway political community said he was something else. Some said Mr. Klain was a famous political operative. Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, called him an “implementation expert.” Those who have been around politics too long said Mr. Klain was a fixer.

Political fixer is not an entirely dishonorable profession. Presidents, governors, mayors—nearly all at some point need someone who can hose down the blood, do the laundry and get the boys back to doing business as usual.

Or used to.

Ron Klain may be the last fixer. …



Hillary was campaigning for Martha Coakley in MA and decided to see if she could sound dumber than Fauxchahontas – Elizabeth Warren. We’ll look at this from a few directions. Jonathan Tobin is first.

It didn’t take long for Hillary Clinton’s handlers to start walking back the putative 2016 Democratic presidential nominee’s latest whopper. While campaigning alongside Senator Elizabeth Warren — the Democrat most members of her party’s base really like — Clinton tried to play can you top this with the popular left-winger by telling her audience, “Don’t let anybody tell you that corporations and businesses create jobs.” It’s hard to imagine a more mind-boggling confession of her ignorance of basic economics. But even after her staff tried to explain it as merely opposition to certain tax breaks or “trickle down economics,” it’s hard to explain what she was thinking. …

… This is, of course, the same Hillary who likes to pretend to be the adult in the room on economic as well as foreign policy issues. But as she proved during her time as secretary of state, Clinton is a political chameleon with no core beliefs other than her own personal ambition. Just as she gladly went along with President Obama’s decision to cut and run from Iraq and ultimately from Afghanistan and stay out of Syria even though she supposedly disagreed with much of this, when placed in Warren’s orbit in front of an audience of rabid liberals, Clinton is ready to stake out a position that seems to assert that only government is responsible for job creation.

Rather than a misstatement or a gaffe or even a late life avowal of neo-socialist claptrap her nonsense about corporations not creating jobs is testimony to her inauthentic nature. …



More from Jennifer Rubin.

… This latest gaffe confirms that when Clinton’s lips move she is telling us what she thinks her base wants to hear, not sharing any original or sincerely felt position of her own. Moreover, her utter lack of spontaneity has now become a primary characteristic. As one Capitol Hill Republican put it, “She overcompensates when she’s in uncomfortable territory.” Like trying to be a populist. Or trying to attack the corporations whose trough she has fed on for millions of dollars in speaking fees. Or trying to appear nonchalant about a challenger from her left, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who actually believes anti-business rhetoric.

How is it that Clinton is, well, such a bad politician? Remember in 2008 she wasn’t all that scintillating, appearing stiff and remote and running on experience in a “change” election. For decades Bill Clinton had been the politician and she, the operator behind the scenes. Electoral politics most obviously had not been her own life’s calling. As we age, old habits of mind become more ingrained. Whatever tendencies one has magnify and whatever limitations one suffers from become more impervious. Then, consider that for nearly six years as secretary of state and former secretary of state she has perfected the art of saying not very much at all. No wonder her public performances are so painful to watch. …



And Ed Morrissey with his case backed by some numbers.

… The miminum-wage bill for which Hillary Clinton voted passed in 2007 and took effect in stages, beginning that summer.  The Household Survey of the BLS showed that the US economy had 146.063 million jobs in June 2007, just before the increase took place. Last month’s data showed that the US economy had 146.6 million jobs — an increase of less than 500,000 in over 7 years, not “millions of jobs” as Hillary claims here. In fact, the 146.6 million is the highest it’s ever gotten since the passage of that law. In the same period, the civilian workforce participation rate has gone from 66% to 62.7%. On a population basis, there are a lot fewer people working after the last minimum wage hike, not more, and wages are actually down, not up.

Compare this to the “trickle-down” era of the Reagan presidency. When Reagan took office in January 1981, the US economy had 99.995 million jobs and the participation rate was 63.9%. By the end of his presidency in January 1989, the US economy had grown more than 16 million jobs (116.708 million total) and the participation rate had leaped to 66.5%. That covers nearly the same length of time since the last minimum wage hike (96 months vs 89 months), but both include about five years of technical economic recovery.

Obviously there were other factors in play here, so lets focus on something more directly affected by minimum-wage hikes — teen unemployment, which is where minimum-wage hikes have the most impact. When Reagan took office, teen unemployment was 19.1%, but it dropped to 16.4% by the end of his presidency. In June 2007, it was at a similar level, 16.3%. Today it’s 20%, and has been bouncing in 2014 between 19% and 21%. Don’t forget that these figures are more than five years into a supposed recovery. …

October 28, 2014

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Interesting item in the NY Times Magazine asking if age is nothing but a mind set. Or course, you can take it too far, but some of these studies are good food for thought.

One day in the fall of 1981, eight men in their 70s stepped out of a van in front of a converted monastery in New Hampshire. They shuffled forward, a few of them arthritically stooped, a couple with canes. Then they passed through the door and entered a time warp. Perry Como crooned on a vintage radio. Ed Sullivan welcomed guests on a black-and-white TV. Everything inside — including the books on the shelves and the magazines lying around — were designed to conjure 1959. This was to be the men’s home for five days as they participated in a radical experiment, cooked up by a young psychologist named Ellen Langer.

The subjects were in good health, but aging had left its mark. “This was before 75 was the new 55,” says Langer, who is 67 and the longest-serving professor of psychology at Harvard. Before arriving, the men were assessed on such measures as dexterity, grip strength, flexibility, hearing and vision, memory and cognition — probably the closest things the gerontologists of the time could come to the testable biomarkers of age. Langer predicted the numbers would be quite different after five days, when the subjects emerged from what was to be a fairly intense psychological intervention.

Langer had already undertaken a couple of studies involving elderly patients. In one, she found that nursing-home residents who had exhibited early stages of memory loss were able to do better on memory tests when they were given incentives to remember — showing that in many cases, indifference was being mistaken for brain deterioration. In another, now considered a classic of social psychology, Langer gave houseplants to two groups of nursing-home residents. She told one group that they were responsible for keeping the plant alive and that they could also make choices about their schedules during the day. She told the other group that the staff would care for the plants, and they were not given any choice in their schedules. Eighteen months later, twice as many subjects in the plant-caring, decision-making group were still alive than in the control group.

To Langer, this was evidence that the biomedical model of the day — that the mind and the body are on separate tracks — was wrongheaded. The belief was that “the only way to get sick is through the introduction of a pathogen, and the only way to get well is to get rid of it,” she said, when we met at her office in Cambridge in December. She came to think that what people needed to heal themselves was a psychological “prime” — something that triggered the body to take curative measures all by itself. Gathering the older men together in New Hampshire, for what she would later refer to as a counterclockwise study, would be a way to test this premise. …


… Langer did not try to replicate the study — mostly because it was so complicated and expensive; every time she thought about trying it again, she talked herself out of it. Then in 2010, the BBC broadcast a recreation, which Langer consulted on, called “The Young Ones,” with six aging former celebrities as guinea pigs.

The stars were squired via period cars to a country house meticulously retrofitted to 1975, right down to the kitschy wall art. They emerged after a week as apparently rejuvenated as Langer’s septuagenarians in New Hampshire, showing marked improvement on the test measures. One, who had rolled up in a wheelchair, walked out with a cane. Another, who couldn’t even put his socks on unassisted at the start, hosted the final evening’s dinner party, gliding around with purpose and vim. The others walked taller and indeed seemed to look younger. They had been pulled out of mothballs and made to feel important again, and perhaps, Langer later mused, that rekindling of their egos was central to the reclamation of their bodies.

The program, which was shown in four parts and nominated for a Bafta Award (a British Emmy), brought new attention to Langer’s work. Jeffrey Rediger, a psychiatrist and the medical and clinical director of Harvard’s McLeanHospital, was invited by a friend of Langer’s to watch it with some colleagues last year. Rediger was aware of Langer’s original New Hampshire study, but the made-for-TV version brought its tantalizing implications to life.

“She’s one of the people at Harvard who really gets it,” Rediger told me. “That health and illness are much more rooted in our minds and in our hearts and how we experience ourselves in the world than our models even begin to understand.” …



Scientific American says we might see more propeller driven aircraft.

The debut of propeller-driven aircraft kicked off a global aerospace technology boom that continues to this day. But since the emergence of the jet aircraft engine during World War II, research into propeller-powered flight has often taken a backseat to the turbofan technology that carries jetliners faster and farther. Speed and range come at a cost, however, and both rising fuel prices and increased demand for regional air travel have changed the economics of flight over the past 10 years. Now airlines are once again looking to smaller, more efficient turboprop planes to handle shorter routes, driving the development of a new generation of prop-driven aircraft technologies poised to take wing by the end of the decade. …

… Among those paving the way for a new generation of turboprops, General Electric Aviation’s Dowty Propellers is exploring anew the interactive effects among the propeller, engine nacelle and aircraft wing. Using computational fluid dynamics tools that were not available even a few years ago, engineers at the Gloucester, England–based firm are not only designing blades with new efficiency-enhancing shapes but rethinking the layout of the propeller as a whole.

“The computational power that’s avail- able now has really made the difference,” says Dowty’s Jonathan Chestney, noting that researchers can analyze data on an individual-blade basis. “It’s an exciting time for us,” he remarks. “We’re able to see much more detail, like a scientist who just got a microscope for the first time.” …



We have had items before on China’s aircraft carrier. War is Boring says things are not going well with the craft.

There’s no more of a conspicuous and potent symbol of China’s growing naval power than the aircraft carrier Liaoning.

But the 53,000-ton, 999-foot-long carrier could be dangerous to her crew and prone to engine failures. If so, that makes the vessel as much of a liability as an asset to Beijing.

The ex-Soviet carrier once went by the name Varyag until a cash-strapped Ukraine sold the ship to Beijing in 1998. The Chinese navy has since invested considerable resources into modernizing the warship and testing her at sea.

But on at least one occasion during recent sea trials, Liaoning appeared to suffer a steam explosion which temporarily knocked out the carrier’s electrical power system. …

… Engine failures are not an unknown phenomenon aboard ex-Soviet carriers. The 40,000-ton displacement Indian carrier Vikramaditya—first a Soviet Kiev-class carrier commissioned in 1987 and sold in 2004—temporarily shut down at sea after a boiler overheated two years ago.

The 50,000-ton Russian carrier Admiral Kuznetsov also goes nowhere without a tug escort in case her engines break down while underway. …

October 27, 2014

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Scott Walker’s administration in Wisconsin has succeeded in bringing to heel the teacher’s unions, and that has created for him the undying enmity of the left. Where they have some residual power they have become gangsters.  George Will takes a look at the state’s upcoming election. 

The early-morning paramilitary-style raids on citizens’ homes were conducted by law enforcement officers, sometimes wearing bulletproof vests and lugging battering rams, pounding on doors and issuing threats. Spouses were separated as the police seized computers, including those of children still in pajamas. Clothes drawers, including the children’s, were ransacked, cellphones were confiscated and the citizens were told that it would be a crime to tell anyone of the raids.

Some raids were precursors of, others were parts of, the nastiest episode of this unlovely political season, an episode that has occurred in an unlikely place. This attempted criminalization of politics to silence people occupying just one portion of the political spectrum has happened in Wisconsin, which often has conducted robust political arguments with Midwestern civility.

From the progressivism of Robert La Follette to the conservatism of Gov. Scott Walker (R) today, Wisconsin has been fertile soil for conviction politics. Today, the state’s senators are the very conservative Ron Johnson (R) and the very liberal Tammy Baldwin (D). Now, however, Wisconsin, which to its chagrin produced Sen. Joe McCarthy (R), has been embarrassed by Milwaukee County’s Democratic district attorney, John Chisholm. He has used Wisconsin’s uniquely odious “John Doe” process to launch sweeping and virtually unsupervised investigations while imposing gag orders to prevent investigated people from defending themselves or rebutting politically motivated leaks. …



Pajamas Media has more from Wisconsin.

A document dump attempts to create an impression of scandal around Scott Walker, though none exists.

In order to understand the latest turn of events in embattled Wisconsin, it is necessary to review recent history.

Before running for the governorship in 2010, Scott Walker served two terms as MilwaukeeCounty executive. Milwaukee County is a Democratic Party stronghold, one of the three most resolutely Democratic of the state’s 72 counties (the other two: Dane, the seat of state capital Madison and main campus of the University of Wisconsin; and Menomonee, populated almost entirely by Menomonee Indians). In 2009, one of Walker’s staffers reported some apparent financial irregularities to him concerning a veterans’ charity which he ran, and Walker asked the county district attorney to look into them.

What is called a “John Doe” probe was launched, and indeed an aide was caught embezzling funds from the charity, prosecuted, and convicted. But in the course of the investigation, two other staffers (including, ironically, the one who had reported the irregularities in the first place) were also caught engaging in non-official tasks on government time using government computers. These are technical violations of state law concerning political activities whose enforcement is often controversial and widely believed to be highly partisan. In this case, there were again prosecutions. …



Fresh from gangster government in Wisconsin, we turn for a look at the gangster in DC. Seth Mandel writes on the presidency. 

It is rare that several seemingly unconnected stories on quite different topics can turn out, when read together, to make a cohesive and profound point on the nature the American presidency. But that is the case today. The first story is Jeff Shesol’s piece in the New Yorker on the newfound humility of the followers of President Obama, once the lightbringer and redeemer but now, astonishingly to them, human. And although there is a point hidden in this tale of political woe, it is a point Shesol misses.

The piece is headlined “Obama and the End of Greatness.” The story is a close relative of the “America the ungovernable” narrative, in which failed Democratic presidents inspire liberal commentators to decide that if someone like Obama can’t succeed, the job is too difficult for one man. That narrative is false, of course; Obama is simply not very good at his job and has personality traits that compel him to lash out and blame others instead of changing course. The Shesol conceit is similar: Obama turned out not to be a great president but perhaps we don’t need or can’t have or shouldn’t expect great presidents at all.

This, too, is wrong. But it’s wrong in an interesting way. Obama was the one who raised expectations, and his followers merely echoed his vainglorious messianic pronouncements. Nonetheless, it is hard to imagine the country agreeing on a “great” modern president if only because the two major parties have moved so far apart that they now view governing in completely different ways. …



Peter Wehner says the Dems are trying to hide from the president, but the vain man will not let them. 

One of the more amusing things to observe as we get closer to the midterm elections is the great push-and-pull that’s going on between Democratic candidates and the president.

A nearly endless number of Democrats are distancing themselves from Mr. Obama, including those who have voted with him 99 percent of the time. Perhaps the most comical performance so far was by Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Democrat in Kentucky who’s challenging Mitch McConnell. Ms. Grimes has repeatedly refused to say whether she voted for Mr. Obama in 2008 and 2012, including invoking a high constitutional principle to keep her sacred little secret.

It’s now gotten to the point where even the chairwoman of the DNC, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, distanced herself from the president of her own party. And here’s what really wonderful about this: Mr. Obama won’t let Democrats run from him. He’s like their hound of heaven. …



Wehner also posts on the “madder than hell” president.

What we have here is a chief executive who obsessively blames others (through planned leaks or public statements, or both) for failures that occur on his watch. In the case of our intelligence agencies, they made it crystal clear after the 60 Minutes interview that the president had been warned about ISIS but simply ignored those warnings. So the fault was his, not theirs.

Beyond that, though, it doesn’t seem to have dawned on Mr. Obama that he’s the chief executive, that agencies and individuals answer to him and to his White House. And that when these failures occur, it’s actually his responsibility. It’s part of the job description of being president. But Mr. Obama doesn’t seem to get it. When things go wrong, he reverts to a most peculiar habit, in which he speaks almost as if he’s an outside observer of his own administration. He complains about things going wrong as if he has no capacity to correct them. He seems to defer to others rather than exercise control over them, and then he seethes when things aren’t done right. As a result, Mr. Obama has spent much of his presidency madder than hell. See for yourself. …



Power Line posts on the hapless help offered to the Dem senate candidate in Iowa.

… Michelle is an amateur politician. Before President Obama’s presidency sank, she was a natural at stirring up friendly crowds with rants on behalf of her husband. This skill doesn’t easily translate into boosting the candidacy of strangers. In short, her mistakes, though embarrassing, were excusable.

By contrast, Obama’s press operation is staffed by professionals. Yet it too can’t do right by Braley. Yesterday, it released via email a transcript of Michelle Obama’s appearance in Iowa on behalf Braley. Unfortunately for the beleaguered candidate, the subject line of the e-mail referred to him as the “Democratic candidate for governor.”

The White House’s subliminal message seems to be: Bruce Bailey, won’t you please come home.

Senate Democrats aren’t amused. One senior aide told the National Journal that “the ineptitude of the White House political operation has sunk from annoying to embarrassing.” Another Senate official told the Washington Post that Obama’s comments thrusting himself into the election were “not devised with any input from Senate leadership.” No kidding. …



Jennifer Rubin posts on Axelrod’s latest excuse for the president’s latest fail.

President Obama’s former adviser David Axelrod is quoted as explaining Obama’s chronic emergency-response failure thusly: “There’s no doubt that there’s a theatrical nature to the presidency that he resists. Sometimes he can be negligent in the symbolism.”  I don’t buy it.

The candidate who modeled his presidency on Abraham Lincoln, who accepted the Democratic nomination in Denver beside Greek columns and who ran on “Hope and Change” knows a thing or two about theatrics and symbolism. Axelrod would have us believe Obama is just too smart and too methodical for his own good. (“He responds in a very rational way, trying to gather facts, rely on the best expert advice, and mobilize the necessary resources.”) Oh, puleez.

Let’s look at three other explanations that correspond to reality.

First, Obama has surrounded himself with sycophants who won’t tell him he is wrong. As Ron Fournier pointed out, “What of the two advisers without a specific portfolio: Valerie Jarrett and Dan Pfeiffer? They’re blindly loyal to Obama, gatherers of power, shielded from blame, and accountable to nobody but the president. Their biggest admirers acknowledge privately that Obama won’t change course unless Jarrett and Pfeiffer change work addresses.” If you don’t know trouble is coming, your closest aides say reaction is just carping from Republicans and you have an exaggerated sense of your own skills, you tend not to expect trouble or take it seriously when it comes. …



And Rubin wonders if he is trying to sink fellow Dems.

It is a measure of President Obama’s unbridled ego that in an election in which he is dragging his party down to defeat, he insists on reminding voters that those struggling to swim against the tide and away from him are really his supporters. In an interview with Al Sharpton (apparently the MSNBC audience and a sycophantic host provide the president a safe venue — or so he thought), Obama proclaimed: “A lot of the states that are contested this time are states that I didn’t win. And so some of the candidates there — it is difficult for them to have me in the state because the Republicans will use that to try to fan Republican turnout. The bottom line though is, these are all folks who vote with me, they have supported my agenda in Congress. . .  . This isn’t about my feelings being hurt, these are folks who are strong allies and supporters of me.” He is absolutely correct; these are people who supported every major initiative and dutifully stuck with their majority leader. But why say it?

Not only does Obama thereby remind everyone in those red states that, as he said earlier, his policies are “on the ballot,” but he also impugns the candidates’ honesty, essentially telling voters that these candidates are running on a false claim of independence. Surely he must know all this, and yet he apparently can’t bear to see fellow Democrats disclaiming their association with him.

You can see a mile away the rationalization for a big loss: These Democrats shouldn’t have run from the president. …



Charles Cooke has more on Dem mishaps.

… Were an alien visitor to have descended from the heavens in order to survey this election season, he would likely have concluded that the American Left struggles to find proficient representatives. In Montana, the Democratic party lost its first candidate to a plagiarism scandal and, inexplicably, chose as his replacement an erratic Communist sympathizer whose idea of a fun afternoon is to record and post rambling black-and-white videos of herself to her YouTube page. In the course of her many “vlogs,” Amanda Curtis has mocked women who believe that they will be given a chance against sexual predators if they are armed; disdained “the family,” “natural law,” and “Christians”; and confessed how difficult she finds it not to “punch” fellow lawmakers in the face. She is currently losing by 19 points, and it is only by the grace of pronounced media bias that she has not been transformed into the public face of the entire party.

In Massachusetts, meanwhile, poor old Martha Coakley has doggedly continued to be . . . well, to be Martha Coakley, with all that that entails. Whatever it was that inspired the Democratic party in one of the bluest states in the country to give the woman who almost sank Obamacare a second shot, the powers-that-be will almost certainly now be bitterly regretting their choice. Republican Charlie Baker is winning by nine points.

Even in the closer races, it is Democrats, and not Republicans, who have injured themselves. Iowa’s Bruce Braley kicked off his campaign insulting the voters of his state by loftily informing a room full of trial lawyers that Senator Chuck Grassley was just “a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school.” …

October 26, 2014

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Last night’s improbable third game of this year’s World Series makes this a good time to include a number of baseball items. The Weekly Standard piece The War for Ninety Feet is a good look at the game inside the game.

… “I want to show you something really cool,” Ritchie says, as he moves to the chalkboard and draws a line down the middle.

“Oh, this is cool,” says one of his assistant coaches, Jon Tatum. “Since I’ve been here, this is one of the most important things I learned from coach.”

On the left side of the line, Ritchie writes +90, and -90 on the right.

“Sacrifice bunt,” says Ritchie. “Plus 90,” says Tatum, meaning it moves the runner another 90 feet closer to home and scoring a run. Ritchie writes it out in the left-hand column. “Double play,” he says next. “Another plus 90,” says Tatum, meaning the team in the field has won this skirmish by taking 90 feet away from the team at bat. That, too, goes in the left-hand column.

Minus 90s are failures to execute, in the field, at the plate, or on the mound.  For instance, a throw from the outfield that misses the cutoff man and allows the runner to take an extra base forfeits 90 feet. On the offensive side, failure to lay down a sacrifice bunt and move a runner closer to home is a minus 90. Bad at bats are those that make the job of the next hitter harder not easier. Those, too, are minus 90s on the offensive side.

There are dozens of possible plus and minus 90s, all of them the function of either executing team fundamentals properly, or failing to. He’s not loading up the left side of the margin with home runs for the offense and strike outs for the defense, but what lots of baseball commentators call—mistakenly, from Ritchie’s perspective—the “small things.” The way he sees it, this is baseball skill and it’s what decides outcomes. “The higher the ratio of plus 90s to minus 90s,” says Ritchie, “the more likely you are to win ballgames.” …



The Wall Street Journal weighs in with It’s Time to Play by National League Rules.

The Kansas City Royals are an anachronism in many ways, but one in particular stands out as the American League champions visit National League territory on Friday: This team has an old-school designated hitter.

You know the type—a lumbering slugger who anchors the middle of the order and hardly ever plays the field. Royals DH Billy Butler even has an appropriately beefy nickname: Country Breakfast. 

Few teams still employ a classic DH, but the Royals do. So as the World Series shifts to San Francisco, where the pitcher will be required to hit, Kansas City may feel the impact of NL rules in a way that other AL teams wouldn’t. Butler, who had two RBIs in the Royals’ Game 2 win, will go to the bench—a situation traditionally viewed as advantageous to NL teams, which aren’t built with a centerpiece DH in mind. 

“The American League team is going to have a DH,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “They’re going to spend money on a DH. A guy that has that role, where we don’t do that in the National League. And then you go to our park and they don’t have that player available.” …



Thomas Boswell writes on this year’s crop of relief pitchers.

The World Series as bullpen war has never been fully explored, perhaps because no two pennant winners have arrived on this stage with so many lousy starting pitchers.

However, before this World Series ends, we will find out which bullpen, that of the San Francisco or the Kansas City Royals, has been pitched into a large pile of mush while the other celebrates a championship. This is a war of attrition, and until the shoulders, elbows, wrists or fingers of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis, Greg Holland and, now, rookie Brandon Finnegan fall off or cease to function, the Royals are in precarious command of this unique and peculiar classic.

On Friday night in Game 3 in AT&TPark, the Royals used those four relievers to get the final 12 outs and present Jeremy Guthrie, one of those diligent veterans who lasted exactly five innings, the 3-2 victory. The fresh element was the appearance of Finnegan, who pitched in the College World Series for Texas Christian less than five months ago, to get the last two outs of the seventh inning after Herrera had thrown 26 of his 27 pitches 96-to-100 mph and looked a bit tuckered.

The Royals’ winning run was driven in, after an 11-pitch battle, by Eric Hosmer with a lined single to center field off — of course —a relief pitcher  …



Adam Kilgore, WaPo’s baseball writer, covered the game.

Kansas City Royals Manager Ned Yost grabbed the keys and took the wheel in the sixth inning Friday night. He swerved over the double yellow, glanced off the guard rail and just about hit a pedestrian. He might have clipped a couple mailboxes. And do you know what? At the end of Game 3 of the World Series, there the car sat, fender dented and headlight busted, safe and sound in the driveway.

Yost’s moves typically draw questions. The one that persisted Friday night is this: Was that dunce cap actually a wizard’s hat? In the Royals’ harrowing, 3-2 victory over the San Francisco Giants, Yost coaxed all 12 outs he needed from his bullpen in head-scratching, mind-bending, game-winning fashion. He rooted for his own hitter to make an out. He allowed a reliever to hit with a man on base in the seventh inning. He let a right-handed pitcher face a left-handed batter while a left-handed pitcher warmed up. He asked for a rookie who plied his trade this spring at TexasChristianUniversity to record the night’s biggest outs. The decisions led ultimately to the Royals taking a 2-1 lead in the 110th World Series.

“I’m getting really good at protecting a one-run lead,” Yost said, “because a lot of times that’s exactly what we have to deal with.”

The burden of decision shifted afterward to Bruce Bochy, the manager in the other dugout. In Saturday’s Game 4, down a game, would he start mountainous left-hander Madison Bumgarner? No, he confirmed afterward. The Giants will stick with journeyman Ryan Vogelsong and pitch Bumgarner with regular rest in Game 5. …




Now we’ll switch to football as a WSJ OpEd chronicles the football obsession of F. Scott Fitzgerald.

You don’t need to know about the literary backdrop of PrincetonUniversity football to take an interest in Saturday’s game against Harvard. For two years running this storied rivalry has produced thrillers that came down to the final seconds—last year in triple overtime. At stake once again is the Ivy League title.

It’s safe to say that this weekend’s game would have mattered a lot to F. Scott Fitzgerald. As a prep-school student in the stands for the 1911 installment of the rivalry, Fitzgerald watched Princeton pull off an improbable late victory. At that instant, his biographers say, he vowed to enroll at Princeton. Once there, he tried out for the team—but got cut on the first day, a well-chronicled disappointment that some scholars believe explains the sense of rejection that permeates his novels, especially “The Great Gatsby.”

But long overlooked evidence suggests that football didn’t just influence Fitzgerald: Fitzgerald himself may have exerted a decisive influence on the development of the game.

The evidence comes from a 1956 interview with Fritz Crisler, a man who unquestionably shaped the game of football. After becoming head coach at Michigan in 1938, Crisler established the practice of fielding distinct offensive and defensive units; previously, 11 men had played both sides of the ball for 60 minutes. This shift became Crisler’s legacy. His biography at the College Football Hall of Fame calls him “the father of two-platoon football.” …



Richard Brookhiser’s biography of Lincoln is reviewed in City Journal.

Unlike those mega-biographies that bury their subject’s chief accomplishments under 900 pages of undigested detail, Richard Brookhiser’s compact, profound, and utterly absorbing new life of Abraham Lincoln, Founders’ Son, leaps straight to the heart of the matter. With searchlight intensity, it dazzlingly illuminates the great president’s evolving views of slavery and the extraordinary speeches in which he unfolded that vision, molding the American mind on the central conflict in American history and resolving, at heroic and tragic cost to the nation and himself, the contradiction that the Founding Fathers themselves could not resolve.

Of Lincoln’s youth, therefore, Brookhiser gives us only telling vignettes: his sense of close connection to the Founding through the Revolutionary War-veteran grandfather for whom he was named; the kindly stepmother who entered his hardscrabble life like a ray of sunshine and encouraged his love of reading and thinking, so that, after false starts as a riverboat man and a storekeeper, he could teach himself to be a lawyer by dogged solitary study; the rain-stained copy of Parson Weems’s biography of George Washington that fired his boyhood imagination with the momentous meaning of the American Founding, and that stoked (I would guess) the ambition, which he expressed almost in Washington’s very words, to “be truly esteemed of my fellow men, by rendering myself worthy of their esteem;” the passionate belief in “a man’s right to own the fruits of his own labor,” bred not only by having to work as an unpaid field hand for his dirt-farmer father but also by his father’s hiring him out to other farmers and pocketing his wages; his related belief, also conceived in servitude, and later strengthened by the Hamiltonian vision of Henry Clay, that the purpose of American liberty was, as Brookhiser puts it, “to make men—to develop the talents of individual Americans;” …

October 23, 2014

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Rich Karlgaard with what could have been.

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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



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

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

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

October 22, 2014

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

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

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



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

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

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



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

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



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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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



Noemie Emery uses Todd Akin as her GOP idiot.

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 21, 2014

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

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

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

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



Kevin Williamson writes on the Ebola administration.

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

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



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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

Stage 4 of Obama Crisis Management: Republicans are obstructing.



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

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


Cartoonists are especially good today.

October 20, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 19, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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



Mark Steyn.

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

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

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

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



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

Let’s review:

The stock market is in free fall.

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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



Ron Fournier doesn’t think much of the czar.

1. We shouldn’t need an Ebola czar.

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

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

4. That should be enough. …

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

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



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

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

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

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

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



Al least Andy Malcolm is here with late night humor.

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

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

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