September 23. 2014

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Charles Krauthammer tries to divine the jihadi logic of the Islamic State.

What was the Islamic State thinking? We know it is sophisticated in its use of modern media. But what was the logic of propagating to the world videos of its beheadings of two Americans (and subsequently a Briton) — sure to inflame public opinion?

There are two possible explanations. One is that these terrorists are more depraved and less savvy than we think. They so glory in blood that they could not resist making an international spectacle of their savagery — after all, they proudly broadcast their massacre of Shiite prisoners — and did not quite fathom how such a brazen, contemptuous slaughter of Americans would radically alter public opinion and risk bringing down upon them the furies of the U.S. Air Force.

The second theory is that they were fully aware of the inevitable consequence of their broadcast beheadings — and they intended the outcome. It was an easily sprung trap to provoke America into entering the Mesopotamian war.

Why?

Because they’re sure we will lose. Not immediately and not militarily. They know we always win the battles but they are convinced that, as war drags on, we lose heart and go home.

They count on Barack Obama quitting the Iraq/Syria campaign just as he quit Iraq and Libya in 2011 and is in the process of leaving Afghanistan now. …

  

 

Mark Steyn posts on the state’s business licensing. And after four years, a judge in Florida slaps down the states jackboot thugs. 

I often joke with my hairdresser Amanda about the number of state permits she requires for the privilege of cutting my hair. As I point out on page 49 of After America (personally autographed copies of which are exclusively available, etc):

In the Fifties, one in twenty members of the workforce needed government permission in order to do his job. Today, it’s one in three.

That’s tyrannous – which is bad enough, albeit not unique to America: The entire developed world has massively expanded the hyper-regulatory state. But only in America does the Department of Paperwork command lethal force:

“On August 19, 2010, two inspectors from the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) visited the Strictly Skillz Barbershop in Orlando and found everything in order: All of the barbers working there were properly licensed, and all of the work stations complied with state regulations. Two days later, even though no violations had been discovered and even though the DBPR is authorized to conduct such inspections only once every two years, the inspectors called again, this time accompanied by “between eight and ten officers, including narcotics agents,” who “rushed into” the barbershop “like [a] SWAT team.” Some of them wore masks and bulletproof vests and had their guns drawn. Meanwhile, police cars blocked off the parking lot.

The officers ordered all the customers to leave, announcing that the shop was “closed down indefinitely.” They handcuffed the owner, Brian Berry, and two barbers who rented chairs from him, then proceeded to search the work stations and a storage room. They demanded the barbers’ driver’s licenses and checked for outstanding warrants. One of the inspectors, Amanda Fields, asked for the same paperwork she had seen two days earlier, going through the motions of verifying (again) that the barbers were not cutting hair without a license (a second-degree misdemeanor). Finding no regulatory violations or contraband, the officers released Berry and the others after about an hour.’

What sort of lunatic handcuffs a barber in order to check his license is valid? The gauleiter in question is Inspector Amanda Fields of Florida’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation – and, in a sane world, she’d be the one in handcuffs. But, as far as I can tell, she still has her job. Judge Rosenbaum’s opinion for the US 11th Circuit is unusually vivid: …

 

 

MacKubin Thomas Owens writes on current thinking about Grant and Lee and the Civil War.

… Almost from the moment the conflict ended, the Lost Cause came to dominate interpretations of the war, in the North as well as in the South. The works of Douglas Southall Freeman, the Virginian and biographer of Robert E. Lee, represent the epitome of the Lost Cause school, but even writers like Bruce Catton, who interpreted the war primarily from a Northern perspective, accepted many of the Lost Cause assumptions.

There are two parts to the Lost Cause interpretation. The first is political and holds that the cause of the war was not slavery but the oppressive power of the central government, which wished to tyrannize over the southern states. The South wished only to exercise its constitutional right to secede, but was thwarted by a power-hungry Lincoln.

The second part is military: The noblest soldier of the war was Robert E. Lee. For three years, he and his army fought in Virginia, the most important theater of the war; he was  more skilful than his adversaries, but went down to defeat because of the North’s superior resources.

The first part of the Lost Cause argument is demonstrably false. Slavery was both the proximate and the deep cause of the war. There was no constitutional right to dissolve the Union.

Southerners could have invoked the natural right of revolution, but they didn’t because of the implications of such a declaration for a slave-holding society; they were, therefore, hardly the heirs of the Revolutionary generation.

But there is a great deal of truth to the second part. The South did fight at a material disadvantage. In Lenin’s words, “quantity has a quality all its own.” And Lee was a remarkably skilful soldier who overcame immense odds on battlefield after battlefield.

For the last two decades, historians have been freeing themselves from the shackles of the Lost Cause school. This has led to a revision of the reputations of both Lee and Grant.

For example, an increasing number of historians have come to reject the Lost Cause argument that Virginia was the decisive theater of the war. The key to Union victory, they hold, was the West. Here Union armies used the Tennessee River as the main line of operations to penetrate deep into the Confederate heartland early in the war. By the end of 1862, they controlled most of the Mississippi River except the stretch between Vicksburg and Port Hudson. These fell in the summer of 1863. Union armies in the West then penetrated the Appalachian barrier at Chattanooga, opening the way to Atlanta, the fall of which ultimately doomed the Confederacy.

They inflicted defeat after defeat on the main Confederate army in the West, the Army of Tennessee (not to be confused with the Union Army of the Tennessee) and captured vast tracts of territory that were essential to the survival of the Confederacy 

In throwing off the shackles of the Lost Cause school, many historians, including prominent southerners, have gone to the other extreme and attacked Lee, something that was unthinkable only two decades ago. For instance, Thomas Connelly and Alan Nolan contend that Lee hurt the southern cause because of a single-minded offensive orientation that led to casualties the Confederacy could not afford.

According to his detractors, Lee had no grand strategy and, for parochial reasons, focused narrowly on defending his home state of Virginia. In his search for a Napoleonic battle of annihilation, he paid too high a cost in casualties. Lee’s predilection for the offensive not only hastened the defeat of the South but also was a major contributing cause of that defeat. In the words of Connelly, the Confederacy would “have fared better had it not possessed” a leader as aggressive as Robert E. Lee. Indeed, some of these historians have gone so far as to argue that Lee’s reputation as a gifted soldier was “manufactured history,” a postwar invention by such Lost Cause writers as Jubal Early, who distorted the record by vastly inflating Lee’s abilities and wartime stature.

On the other hand, Grant’s reputation has been enhanced. …

 

 

And here’s the important stuff. From Latin Times we learn that a glass of wine is better than going to the gym.

Whoever said no news is good news was wrong. Turns out drinking red wine is better for you than going to the gym! How’s that for good news? Jason Dyck and other science researchers in the University of Alberta in Canada found that red wine, nuts and grapes have a complex called resveratrol which improves heart, muscle and bone functions; the same way they’re improved when one goes to the gym. Resveratrol proved to be an effective antioxidant when tested on rodents which is why scientists are planning on testing it with diabetics. If results are positive for the benefits of the complex, patient’s heart health could be improved just as much as it does when they work out vigorously.

While scientists and wine lovers are rejoicing over this news, doctors are still unlikely to recommend their patients to start drinking any type of alcohol as it can have harmful effects on your body. …

September 22, 2014

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Harry Truman once said, “The only thing new in this world is history that you don’t know”. In this administration filled with obama sycophants nobody knows anything. We learned this early when they cancelled the missiles that were to be installed in Poland and made the announcement on the anniversary of the Russian invasion of Poland. The president choosing the ISIS bombing targets is just the latest example. Doesn’t anybody there have any knowledge of history? Don’t they know LBJ did the same thing and degraded the effectiveness of the bombing campaign in North Viet Nam? Craig Pirrong posts on warfare conducted by president bystander.

LBJ micromanaged the bombing campaign. Often hunching over maps, he chose individual targets, mainly at a lunch every Tuesday with his national security team. He famously said that the military couldn’t bomb an outhouse without his permission.

It is almost universally recognized that LBJ’s micromanagement was an unmitigated disaster. The North Vietnamese interpreted the relatively diffident bombing campaign as an indicator of LBJ’s lack of commitment and resolve: they weren’t deterred, but were encouraged. The campaign inflicted little military damage on the North, and the NVA used the respite to bolster their air defenses.

In brief, the LBJ “Rolling Thunder” campaign, and his meddlesome control over it, is widely held up as an example of how not to wage a military campaign, and especially an air campaign.

Fast forward exactly 50 years, from 1964 to 2014. Then read this, and weep:

The U.S. military campaign against Islamist militants in Syria is being designed to allow President Barack Obama to exert a high degree of personal control, going so far as to require that the military obtain presidential signoff for strikes in Syrian territory, officials said.

The requirements for strikes in Syria against the extremist group Islamic State will be far more stringent than those targeting it in Iraq, at least at first. U.S. officials say it is an attempt to limit the threat the U.S. could be dragged more deeply into the Syrian civil war.

. . . .

Through tight control over airstrikes in Syria and limits on U.S. action in Iraq, Mr. Obama is closely managing the new war in the Middle East in a way he hasn’t done with previous conflicts, such as the troop surge in Afghanistan announced in 2009 or the last years of the Iraq war before the 2011 U.S. pullout.

LBJ redux, to the last jot and tittle. Repeating the exact same errors. It will not end up any better. Probably worse, given that the situation in Syria is worse (as bad as it was in SVN in 1964). Talk about forgetting the past and being condemned to repeat it.

 

 

Max Boot on the same subject. 

Shades of LBJ. The comparison may be unfair, but it is also inevitable when one reads that “the U.S. military campaign against Islamist militants in Syria is being designed to allow President Barack Obama to exert a high degree of personal control, going so far as to require that the military obtain presidential signoff for strikes in Syrian territory.”

This is reminiscent of the way that Lyndon Johnson controlled air strikes on North Vietnam from the Oval Office in what has come to be seen as classic example of how trying to carefully ratchet up the use of force to “send a message” to adversaries doesn’t work in the real world. At least Johnson had good reason to limit air strikes in North Vietnam–he was worried about drawing China into the war as had occurred during the Korean War. In the case of Syria, it’s hard to see a similar imperative to limit air strikes on ISIS. If Obama is worried that the Assad regime will take advantage of U.S. attacks on ISIS, the obvious solution would be to bomb Assad’s forces too–in short, more air attacks, not fewer. But that clearly is not what the president contemplates; he seems to envision a few pinprick air strikes in Syria and a few more in Iraq.

How this is supposed to succeed in his ambitious goal of first degrading and then destroying ISIS is hard to see. …

 

 

Another historical analogy is pointed out by Jonathan Tobin. During the Civil War, Lincoln kept looking for a general who would fight. In the Middle East mess, our generals keep looking for a president who will fight. 

One of the key narratives of the American Civil War was President Abraham Lincoln’s long search for a general who could fight and win battles and put a war-winning strategy into action. But when historians look back on the country’s current conflicts in the Middle East, that formula may be reversed. Instead of lacking generals who wish to engage the enemy and defeat them, what the nation may need more is a president who is as committed to victory as his soldiers. That’s the conclusion many observers are drawn to after listening to the testimony of General Martin Dempsey yesterday when he told a Senate committee that he may yet recommend the use of U.S. ground forces against ISIS even though that is something that President Obama has explicitly rejected.

The president repeated his vow that American troops would not fight the terrorists on the ground today when he spoke to an audience of soldiers at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa. While trying, not always successfully, to sound appropriately belligerent, the president made it abundantly clear that that his vow to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the terror group is conditional on finding local proxies to fight the war he has been dragged into by circumstance and the shifting tides of public opinion. The purpose of the speech and, indeed, a rare all-out lobbying push in Congress by a normally diffident White House, was to convince the country of the need to fund American participation in the conflict. But the contrast between the recommendations he has reportedly been getting from his military advisors and his adamant refusal to even leave the door open to U.S. action on the ground makes it hard to believe that he is really serious about winning this war. …

 

 

Jennifer Rubin with more on the clash with the generals.

President Obama is infamous for his high regard for himself and low opinion of just about everyone else. He infamously declared in 2008, “I think that I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters. I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m gonna think I’m a better political director than my political director.” It turns out he didn’t know much about the Middle East, Russia or jihadism.

It should come as no surprise then that he is at war with everyone who knows  less than he does, according to him. He is sparring with his military commanders who are forced to defend an unworkable strategy against the Islamic State that rests upon an imaginary Sunni ground force and U.S. air power alone, a formula that failed spectacularly in the failing state of Libya (including the deaths of four Americans). The Post reports:

Retired Marine Gen. James Mattis, who served under Obama until last year, became the latest high-profile skeptic on Thursday, telling the House Intelligence Committee that a blanket prohibition on ground combat was tying the military’s hands. “Half-hearted or tentative efforts, or airstrikes alone, can backfire on us and actually strengthen our foes’ credibility,” he said. “We may not wish to reassure our enemies in advance that they will not see American boots on the ground.” …

 

 

We’ll close with analysis from Richard Epstein.

… The Obama personal hesitation stems, unfortunately, from reasons unrelated to the military and political issues. Part of his problem is that he cannot bring himself to acknowledge that he was wrong to oppose the Iraqi surge in 2006, and wrong to pull out American troops from Iraq as President. A strong president learns from his past mistakes, but Obama does not.

One reason for his dogged persistence lies in his flawed world view, which deep down, regards the United States (and Israel) as akin to colonial powers, whose actions should always be examined under a presumption of distrust. His ingrained uneasiness with the values of western civilization makes it impossible for him to think and act as the leader of a western nation. Instead, he much prefers to regard himself as a nonpartisan critic and a bystander to world affairs. He has no firm conviction in the rightness of his cause, and hence no confidence in his ability to get others to act as perils mount.

What makes the situation even worse is that Obama receives support from commentators and public intellectuals who think that his reluctance to commit military force should be commended as part of some grand plan to restore American hegemony by gentler means. Just that kind of thinking was evident in a recent column by Thomas Friedman, “Leading From Within,” which refuses to come to grips with the short-term peril that ISIS presents. Friedman accepts the conventional analysis that the 2003 invasion of Iraq was a mistake and ignores the current short-term military crisis in order to piece together some long-term strategic plans to make things better. One of his suggestions is that the United States remove its self-imposed limitations on the export of oil products. Of course, that proposal is correct. But it is an insufficient response to the perilous military situation today in the Middle East. It is also correct even in times of peace because free trade policies always work to the long-term advantage of our nation and the world. In good times, as well as bad, a global increase in the supply of oil will enhance prosperity at home and abroad.

The dubious arguments against fracking technology have ever weaker foundations as the technology continues to become both safer and more energy efficient. There is little environmental risk at home (especially compared to coal), and there is much to gain from boosting overall levels of economic activity, which can never be done by piling huge subsidies into Friedman’s preferred clean energies that still don’t work very well. Indeed, if freeing up oil exports had been done years ago, it would have long ago reduced world dependence on both Russian natural gas and Middle Eastern oil, which could have reduced the risk of aggressive action long before it occurred. …

September 21, 2014

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Robert Rector posts on the failure of the war on poverty. We’ve spent $22 trillion and 14% of the nation is still living in poverty. 

Today, the U.S. Census Bureau will release its annual report on poverty. This report is noteworthy because this year marks the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson’s launch of the War on Poverty. Liberals claim that the War on Poverty has failed because we didn’t spend enough money. Their answer is just to spend more. But the facts show otherwise.

Since its beginning, U.S. taxpayers have spent $22 trillion on Johnson’s War on Poverty (in constant 2012 dollars). Adjusting for inflation, that’s three times more than was spent on all military wars since the American Revolution.

The federal government currently runs more than 80 means-tested welfare programs. These programs provide cash, food, housing and medical care to low-income Americans. Federal and state spending on these programs last year was $943 billion. (These figures do not include Social Security, Medicare, or Unemployment Insurance.)

Over 100 million people, about one third of the U.S. population, received aid from at least one welfare program at an average cost of $9,000 per recipient in 2013. If converted into cash, current means-tested spending is five times the amount needed to eliminate all poverty in the U.S.

But today the Census will almost certainly proclaim that around 14 percent of Americans are still poor. The present poverty rate is almost exactly the same as it was in 1967 a few years after the War on Poverty started. Census data actually shows that poverty has gotten worse over the last 40 years. …

 

 

And from the Sleuth Journal we learn that small business ownership is at an all time low.

According to the Federal Reserve, the percentage of American families that own a small business is at the lowest level that has ever been recorded.  In a report that was just released entitled “Changes in U.S. Family Finances from 2010 to 2013: Evidence from the Survey of Consumer Finances“, the Federal Reserve revealed that small business ownership in America “fell substantially” between 2010 and 2013.  Even in the midst of this so-called “economic recovery”, small business ownership in America has now fallen to an all-time low.  If the economy truly was healthy, this would not be happening.  And it isn’t as if Americans are flooding the labor market either.  As I detailed yesterday, the labor force participation rate in this country is at a 36 year low.  That would not be happening if the economy was actually healthy either.  The truth is that the middle class in America is dying, and this new report from the Federal Reserve is more evidence of this very harsh reality.

In order to build wealth, middle class Americans either need to have their own businesses or they need good jobs.  Sadly, the percentage of Americans that own a business continues to decline steadily.  In the report that I mentioned above, the Federal Reserve says that the proportion of U.S. families that have an ownership interest in a small business fell from 13.3 percent in 2010 to a brand new all-time low of 11.7 percent in 2013.

This is one of the factors that is increasing the gap between the extremely wealthy and the rest of us in this country.  And of course another of the major factors is the steady decline in good paying jobs. …

 

 

The same progressive policies that make life dangerous for small business, are the policies that make cities like New York uninhabitable for the middle class. Kevin Williamson has the story.

A New report being released today by the Census Bureau finds that Manhattan has the highest level of income inequality in the United States. That is not entirely surprising, though it would also not have been surprising if it had been San Francisco or another progressive fiefdom. For all the rhetoric about wicked 1 percenters and inequality, progressivism is a luxury good, and progressive-dominated enclaves are generally pretty okay places to live if you have a fair amount of money, but sort of stink if you’re in the middle or at the lower end of the earnings curve.

Because most Americans experience New York City as tourists or in television shows and movies, it is easy to forget that the hometown of Wall Street and a very large population of obnoxious celebrities is a poor city: New York City is not only poorer than the New York State average, its median household income is, in absolute dollar terms, lower than that of such dramatically less expensive areas as Austin, Texas, or Cleveland County, Okla., where the typical household income is a few thousand dollars a year more than in New York City but the typical house costs less than a third of what the typical New York City home costs — and 17 percent of what the average Manhattan home costs. (And it’s a house, not a two-room coop.) …

… What is particularly salient about the progressive governance of places such as New York City and San Francisco is not the income inequality coincident with it — which has many causes, only some of which are directly related to public policy — but the myriad ways in which misgovernment makes these cities such hostile places to live for people of relatively modest means.

As indicated above, the income figures by themselves hardly tell the story. The median household income in the city of New York is a few hundred dollars a year more than the median household income in the state of Texas, but in practical terms the average New York City household is much worse off. …

 

 

Salon tells us about Alibaba.

The Chinese company Alibaba is going public at 9:30 AM ET on Friday. It is poised to be the largest IPO in history, expected to raise $21 billion. According to Fortune, the offering price will be in the range of $60 to $68 per share.

Unless you’ve spent the last several months eagerly waiting for this IPO, or have spent any time in China, it is possible you may not be familiar with Alibaba, or the implications of it going public.

Alibaba is China’s largest e-commerce company. (A primer on the company can be found here.) According to CNBC, it is used in 80 percent of all Chinese online commerce. The 15-year-old company is a combination of Amazon and eBay, along with some of the functions of Google, but it also has other components, including a PayPal-like system called Alipay. According to Pando Daily, it has also recently backed an Uber competitor.

Not only will this IPO make founder Jack Ma an exceedingly wealthy man; it also introduces the brand to the American public, establishes a level of credibility and sets an interesting precedent for future tech IPOs, some of which are waiting in the wings.

Past tech-related IPOs have been fair or underwhelming — as was the case in April of this year with China’s Twitter-like social media site Weibo. American social media companies Facebook and Twitter were also categorized as having “troubled” or “failed” IPOs. (Although in the case of Twitter that description is more controversial.) So what does this mean for Alibaba?

There are some reasons to be optimistic, yet also a few lingering concerns, which will all come to a head at the opening bell. Salon spoke to Professor Anthea Yan Zhang, a professor of Strategic Management at RiceUniversity’s Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Business to gain some insight on the upcoming IPO. …

 

 

WaPo posts on Biden’s hat trick of stupidity.

Vice President Biden’s Wednesday kicked off with an acknowledgment that he had used a “poor choice of words.” By day’s end, he had put foot in his mouth again. Twice.

Biden opened the door to the possibility the United States could commit ground troops to fight the Islamic State in Iraq, a strategy the Obama administration has painstakingly avoided raising. That came shortly after he walked back his use of the word “Shylocks” and his use of the anachronistic term “Orient” to describe Asia.

Even for the gregarious and outspoken vice president, whose candor has all too often gotten him into hot water, the trio of eyebrow-raising remarks in about a 24-hour span was something to behold. Two of the “he said what?” moments came in Iowa, the first-in-the-nation caucus state where anyone thinking about running for president, a possibility Biden has not ruled out, needs to make a good impression. …

September 18, 2014

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Roger Cohen of the NY Times wrote a column on the “great unraveling” presided over by this president. 

It was the time of unraveling. Long afterward, in the ruins, people asked: How could it happen?

It was a time of beheadings. With a left-handed sawing motion, against a desert backdrop, in bright sunlight, a Muslim with a British accent cut off the heads of two American journalists and a British aid worker. …

… It was a time of aggression. The leader of the largest nation on earth pronounced his country encircled, even humiliated. He annexed part of a neighboring country, the first such act in Europe since 1945, and stirred up a war on further land he coveted. His surrogates shot down a civilian passenger plane. The victims, many of them Europeans, were left to rot in the sun for days. …

… It was a time of breakup. The most successful union in history, forged on an island in the North Sea in 1707, headed toward possible dissolution — not because it had failed (refugees from across the seas still clamored to get into it), nor even because of new hatreds between its peoples.  …

… It was a time of weakness. The most powerful nation on earth was tired of far-flung wars, its will and treasury depleted by absence of victory. An ungrateful world could damn well police itself. The nation had bridges to build and education systems to fix. Civil wars between Arabs could fester. Enemies might even kill other enemies, a low-cost gain. Middle Eastern borders could fade; they were artificial colonial lines on a map. Shiite could battle Sunni, and Sunni Shiite, there was no stopping them. Like Europe’s decades-long religious wars, these wars had to run their course. The nation’s leader mockingly derided his own “wan, diffident, professorial” approach to the world, implying he was none of these things, even if he gave that appearance. He set objectives for which he had no plan. He made commitments he did not keep. In the way of the world these things were noticed. Enemies probed. …

… It was a time of hatred. Anti-Semitic slogans were heard in the land that invented industrialized mass murder for Europe’s Jews. Frightened European Jews removed mezuzahs from their homes. …

 

 

Ed Driscoll says the above shows the Gray Lady suffers from a malaise. And points out a lot of this is partly her fault.

Elizabeth Scalia, aka “The Anchoress,” describes Roger Cohen’s piece in the New York Times titled “The Great Unraveling” as “an exquisitely-written dose of reality.” Regarding America in the age of Obama, Cohen describes it in Dickensian terms; “It was a time of weakness”: …

… Elizabeth responds, “It is, finally, perhaps a time of dawning realization that the centers are not holding; old orders are in extremis; new orders are in capricious adolescence”: …

… Fair enough, but consider the source — over the past 12 years, the New York Times, when not going on benders on the evils of golf courses and air conditioning, and publishing outright fabulism, has, more recently, published pieces calling for the end of the US Constitution, and mocking the “fervid subsets of evangelical Christianity” of its presidential candidates — only, upon further review, to discover that these extreme worldviews are Catholicism, Lutheranism and Mormonism, bedrock religions of America’s history.  Its leading journalists have publicly called the citizens of the American midwest “The dance of the low-sloping foreheads” and filed William S. Burroughs-style stories of openly experimenting with drugs. And of course, in 2008, it went all-in to champion a man who was clearly not ready to be president, to the point of actively burying potentially damaging stories about him and refusing to run op-eds from his opponent. …

 

 

 

Roger Simon posts on the president’s biggest lie.

There’s a lot of competition for Barack Obama’s biggest lie. The man who could assure the American public with a straight face over thirty times that they could keep their doctor under his health plan, when he knew that to be completely false, is one hellluva fibber.

But execrable as that serial prevarication may have been, it doesn’t hold a proverbial candle to his most recent whopper — that the Islamic State is not Islamic — not to mention its corollary, or perhaps subsidiary lie, that real religions do not indulge in murder.  Islam has been doing that pretty much straight through for fourteen centuries, both outwardly toward Christians and Jews, and inwardly in its unresolved pathological conflict between its Sunni and Shiite strains that continues, as the world well knows, to this day and undoubtedly into the foreseeable future, spewing an uncountable number of corpses as it goes.

The Islamic State is not only Islamic, it is the very paradigm of Islam, Islam distilled to its essence as practiced by Mohammed, massacring local tribes, raping and enslaving their women, and making war against everyone in his way until he had subdued as much of Arabia as possible.  Who knows how many beheadings were involved, but can we assume the total significantly outstrips the Islamic State’s, at least for now ?  Islam is far from the only violent religion — almost all have had their moments — but it is unquestionably the most unremittingly so.  If Islam is said to have been hijacked, it is not by the thugs of the Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS, al Qaeda, al Nusra, Ansar al Islam, Ansar al Sharia, al Shabaab, Boko Haram, Jemaah Islamiyah, Hamas, Hezbollah and on and on.  They are the true practitioners of the faith, following in the footsteps of Mohammed and obeying the prescriptions of the Koran and the Hadith to make the whole world Islamic or else. They don’t need to communicate with each other.  They just do their thing, because the playbook has been written for them and they have studied it well.  It is they who have been temporarily hijacked by a few whirling pacifistic Sufis or other moderate outliers …

  

 

And a NY Post OpEd lists the five lies upon which the presidency was shaped.

If past presidents are remembered for their signature achievements, Obama will be remembered for his signature lie: “If you like your health care plan, blah, blah, blah.” The reader knows the rest. Although the most consequential of Obama’s lies — it got him re-elected — it’s far from his only prevarication.

I’ve counted 75 significant lies since his campaign for president began, but that doesn’t begin to tally the casual fibs and hyperbole he spouts seemingly every day. Here are five that illustrate just how much Obama’s presidency is built on falsehoods. …

 

 

Andrew Malcolm says polls indicate the public does not believe obama will prevail against ISIS.

Sowing distrust and discord among Americans has served Barack Obama well politically during his 68 months in office. But now as the former community organizer faces ISIS and the worst foreign policy crisis of his ineffective presidential tenure, that distrust and division has circled around to bite its master.

After his nationally-televised address Wednesday and a tepid Friday fundraiser talk justifying his belated actions, a new poll reveals that a large majority of Americans says it lacks confidence he can accomplish his stated goals of beating the brutal new terror group that released a video of its beheading of a British citizen over the weekend.

Its not that Americans doubt the effectiveness of the American military.

Nor do they question the need to militarily confront the Islamic extremists that have seized large portions of Syria and Iraq, killing thousands and threatening to export their terror attacks to the U.S. and Europe. Indeed, previous polls showed a substantial majority calling for the Democrat to attack ISIS even as he blithely admitted he had no strategy.

The new NBC News/ Wall Street Journal/Annenberg Poll finds 62% of Americans support Obama taking action against ISIS.

But fully 68% of his countrymen say they have “very little” or “just some” confidence that Obama will achieve his newly-discovered strategic goals of degrading and defeating ISIS through bombing and an international coalition. …

 

 

Sherman Frederick tells the president to get to work.

… Sometimes you get a president who exceeds expectations, and sometimes you don’t.

President Barack Obama is a “don’t.”

He got elected. Twice. That’s a skill. But he hasn’t successfully parlayed that skill into effective leadership. His communication skills fail to rise to the level of the average manager at Taco Bell.

Recent events, sadly and clearly, underline this.

In the middle of a televised build-up of brutal terrorist activity in Syria and Iraq, our president stubbornly went on his scheduled vacation to Martha’s Vineyard, where he golfed during the day and danced the night away at parties thrown by lobbyists.

Meanwhile, thousands of Iraqi soldiers and Christians were tortured, raped and slain by ISIS thugs before being pushed into mass graves.

Only when ISIS videotaped the beheading of an American journalist did the president emerge from vacation. He quickly acknowledged the act, saying it was all he could do not to weep in public. Then, only 10 minutes later, he is in a golf cart on the links, yucking it up with an NBA celebrity.

I’ll let shrinks analyze what kind of person can go from sniffling back a tear to a horselaugh. The cause for concern is this president’s ineffective basic communication skills.

He’s such a megalomaniac that he thinks he’s gifted enough to manage from afar fast-breaking world events — Ukraine, Syria, Gaza, etc. Responding to criticism for this, his people explain this very special president doesn’t have to come to work every day and sit at his desk at the White House, because he’s so adept at modern forms of communication — email, texts, video conferencing, etc. …

September 17, 2014

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Today is devoted to items about “the administrative state.” This is the form that tyranny takes in the United States.

 

Pickerhead owns a business that fabricates precision metal parts for electronic enclosures. Shears, punch presses, and press brakes all use thousands of pounds of force to work sheets of stainless, aluminum, and cold rolled steel. So there are many opportunities for people to be seriously hurt. I learned the business  working as CFO for a company in Chicago that owned five factories in the country. Headquarters was at our plant in Elk Grove Village near O’Hare airport. Every calendar quarter someone was hurt. The most common injuries were shortened or lost fingers. Happy to say, the most serious injury in 34 years of operations of my company was three fingers shortened by  fractions of an inch. Some of the reasons for this success are passive because we only buy the safest machinery. Other reasons are more active. For example, we often decline to bid on jobs we think pose safety hazards. 

The result is the company goes for years between claims for Worker’s Compensation insurance, And the experience modifier for those insurance premiums is an excellent 65%. That means instead of $100,000, the premium paid is only $65,000 because of that good safety record  You would think OSHA (Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration) would be pleased with the record and would want to see how that happens.

 You would think that, but you would be wrong. They do not care. They only want to see if we are using the processes they currently deem to be proper. Results mean nothing. They only care about the process. And that process comes from the administrative state. Yet, many of the things we do to make work safer have nothing to do with those processes.

 

We also have zinc and chrome plating lines. Since those are heavy metals the state is interested in how we deal with waste. Once, when the Virginia water people were in the plant they asked questions about our paint booths. A few months later Virginia air people were in and suggested we might need a permit for the paint booths. They left a questionnaire for us to fill out. We did and two months later they wrote telling us we did need a permit and enclosed it along with a $10,000 fine for operating without the permit we did not know we needed.

 We hired a lawyer to write a couple of pages that said, in effect; “F**k you.” After months of back and forth, we agreed to a meeting at their office in Norfolk. Our lawyer went along so there were two of us. Virginia was represented by six people including an attorney who was late to the meeting and apologized saying she lost track of time walking on the beach.

 They came from Richmond. We could have gone there because Williamsburg is halfway between Norfolk and Richmond. But these people were on a boondoggle while they were saving the world. So they drove for two and a half hours and rented hotel rooms in Virginia Beach. Testimony ensued. The best part was that of the person who calculated the fine. He came up with “hard” number for $8,000 and said the final $2,000 was “arbitrary and capricious on my part.” He really said that!

 The meeting was being recorded and I sat quietly hoping my attorney would let that comment pass into the record without amendment. And he did. Negotiations left the company paying a $1,000 fine. This is a good example of the administrative state. And, mind you, Virginia is supposed to be a state that is good for business.

 

Then there are the worst people in the world – the county staff. Our county board wrote a good ordinance governing uses of land along waterways that run to the Chesapeake Bay. The county staff, though, wrote the enforcing regulations that created an administrative nightmare for homeowners who live along the James River. That led to the most ignorant people you can imagine tramping in backyards trying to pronounce indigenous – an old Indian word that means ‘food for deer.’

 

 

 

Scott Johnson of Power Line starts us off with our lesson on how we came to the American form of tyranny 

You may not be interested in administrative law, but administrative law is interested in you. Administrative law is unrecognized by the Constitution, but, according to Colombia Law School Professor Philip Hamburger, it “has become the government’s primary mode of controlling Americans.” He observes that “administrative law has avoided much rancor because its burdens have been felt mostly by corporations.” This is where you come in: “Increasingly, however, administrative law has extended its reach to individuals. The entire society therefore now has opportunities to feel its hard edge.”

Professor Hamburger’s assessment of the proliferation of administrative law may be an understatement. Formal administrative law — the regulations promulgated by the alphabet soup of federal agencies — dwarfs the laws enacted by Congress. To take one vivid example from the front pages of the news in the Age of Obama, the Affordable Care Act (a/k/a Obamacare) runs for 2,800 pages. Democratic House majority leader Nancy Pelosi famously predicted that we would have to pass the bill to find out what was in it. Pelosi was right in more ways than one. By one count published last year, the regulations implementing the act have consumed 10,000 closely printed pages of the Federal Register, at 30 times the length (in words) of the law passed by Congress. …

 

 

WSJ reviews the book that started the discussion.

In stirring his countrymen to ratify the new Constitution, Alexander Hamilton urged in Federalist No. 70 that “energy in the executive” would be “a leading character in the definition of good government.” It was, he argued, critical to national security and equally “essential to the steady administration of the laws.” But others in Hamilton’s day were less sanguine. George Mason feared that by vesting a president with so much power, “it may happen, at some future day, that he will establish a monarchy, and destroy the republic.”

In our own time, Republicans and Democrats can seem united in their distrust of a powerful executive branch, if for different reasons. Republicans contend that the administrative state, with bureaucracies ranging from the Education Department to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, is a bloated, unchecked and almost lawless autocracy. Democrats worry that, in recent years, the president has assumed extraordinary war-making powers and has interfered with the proper functioning of regulatory agencies.

Aggressive assertions of executive power are controversial. But are they unconstitutional? Without hesitation, Columbia Law Professor Philip Hamburger would answer “yes.” In “Is Administrative Law Unlawful?,” Mr. Hamburger looks beyond the usual milestones of American regulatory history—the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887, Roosevelt’s New Deal—to trace the origins and logic of dividing the powers of government and, by so doing, limiting the executive’s reach. …

 

 

Here’s a review from The Weekly Standard.

The administrative state is a modern invention. It was, and remains, a necessity in our complex modern age. Or so goes the argument. 

“The trouble in early times was almost altogether about the constitution of government; and consequently that was what engrossed men’s thoughts,” wrote Woodrow Wilson in his Study of Administration (1887). “The functions of government were simple, because life itself was simple. .  .  . No one who possessed power was long at a loss how to use it.” That all changed—apparently in Wilson’s generation—when “present complexities of trade and perplexities of commercial speculation” posed new challenges for government. 

“In brief,” Wilson wrote, “if difficulties of governmental action are to be seen gathering in other centuries, they are to be seen culminating in our own.” So we need experts: “[W]e have reached a time when administrative study and creation are imperatively necessary to the well-being of our governments saddled with the habits of a long period of constitution-making.” 

Necessary; there is no alternative. As the Supreme Court has declared, “[I]n our increasingly complex society, replete with ever changing and more technical problems, Congress simply cannot do its job absent an ability to delegate power under broad general directives.” 

That is a convenient narrative for the defenders of the administrative state. But it is fanciful. It is not historically accurate. And the justifications—especially the claim of necessity—are not new. Neither are the powers of the administrative state. Indeed, Philip Hamburger, professor of law at Columbia, argues here that it was precisely these justifications and powers that English and American constitutional law developed to protect us against. Not only is the modern administrative state unconstitutional, it is the very thing our Constitution sought to prevent. …

… Administrative law depends on epistemological arrogance, assuming that there is one right answer to a given problem. But our entire society (like all free-market societies) presupposes that there exists a diversity of opinions, objectives, and needs. It is precisely in an “increasingly complex” society that there is no one-size-fits-all answer. 

If the tendency of modernized society is toward freedom or at least social fragmentation, then continual direction by the federal government may actually be inconsistent with modernity.

Maybe humility—and constitutional government—are better after all.

 

 

Scott Johnson again. This time reviewing the book for National Review.

… As Hamburger says repeatedly in this book, administrative law establishes a regime of the kind the United States Constitution was carefully designed to prevent. By his reckoning, we have returned to “the preconstitutional world” of the inglorious reign of James I: Royal edicts are in style, the Star Chamber is in session, and the king is working the outer limits of absolute royal power.

It is a form of government that is, in Hamburger’s view, fundamentally unconstitutional, unlawful, and illegitimate. He has some impressive authority on his side. James Madison famously proclaimed “a political truth of the highest intrinsic value” in Federalist 47: “The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.” Hamburger concurs, arguing that it may also justly be pronounced the very definition of agency government.

Well, who is Philip Hamburger and why is he saying these things? Hamburger is not some rabble-rouser with thoughts of fame or fortune in mind looking to make a name or attract an audience. Rather, he holds an endowed chair at Columbia Law School. He is a distinguished scholar specializing in legal history. He is the epitome of respectability. His book bears the imprint of an elite academic publisher and it draws on a deep well of original scholarship to address what he characterizes as a leading danger to the future of limited constitutional government.

The book is in substantial part devoted to English legal history. Hamburger recounts how British monarchs claimed a right to issue edicts with the binding force of law and even to impose taxes under their prerogative power. They also established their own courts — the Star Chamber being the most notable example — to enforce their will.

This prerogative power was reformed over time, with legislative power restricted to Parliament and judicial power to the law courts. The courts rejected edicts promulgated by the king with the binding force of law; in 1641, Parliament abolished the Star Chamber and other prerogative tribunals.

Against this backdrop of legal history, the vesting by the U.S. Constitution of “all legislative Powers” in Congress (emphasis added), of “the executive Power” in a president, and of “the judicial Power” in the Supreme Court and the inferior courts established by Congress sparkles with a new eloquence, at least to me. This tripartite division of power among the branches of the government profoundly reflects the Founders’ understanding of the legal history recounted by Hamburger. They meant to lay out in our fundamental law the painful lessons learned in the long development of the English constitution. …

 

 

Another review comes from the Library of Law and Liberty. Sorry this has been so long. But like Kevin Williamson warned in 9/14/14 Pickings in “Consider the Moose”, beware not of ISIS, but of your neighbor telling you how to live.

Philip Hamburger’s Is Administrative Law Unlawful? is a timely and major contribution to the most significant constitutional crisis of our time. As a work of scholarship it will inform and inspire future thinking on the administrative state for years.

This book, however, will greatly contribute to an emerging consensus about the perils of the administrative state, and help shape the constitutional response. Therefore Professor Hamburger’s book may well be the most important book that has been written in decades. Scholars have been denouncing the modern administrative state as incompatible with American constitutionalism for years, but nobody has made the argument as thoroughly and forcefully as Hamburger.

The fundamental thesis of his book is that administrative law is profoundly antithetical to any conception of law, not just the conception of law articulated in the U.S. Constitution. The crisis is not simply a constitutional crisis. It is a crisis of law itself. We risk moving from a nation governed by law to a nation of absolutism – the very absolutism that it took centuries for Britain and America to shed.

Specifically, Hamburger argues that the rise of binding administrative power represents the recurrence of extralegal, supralegal, and consolidated power. Administrative law is extralegal because it is a binding power exercised outside the law. That is, it binds citizens not through the laws and the orders of the courts, “but through other sorts of commands and orders” such as administrative legislation and adjudication. …

September 16, 2014

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P. J. O’Rourke wants Scotland to be free. For the entertainment value.

This coming Thursday the Scots will vote on whether to make Scotland an independent nation. And I hope they do because it will be a disaster.

I don’t say this as a prejudiced Irishman. Even though the thistle-arse sheep-shagger Scots swiped Ulster and sent a herd of Presbyterian proddy dogs and porridge wogs to squat on our land and won the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 by using unfair—indeed, unheard of —- organization, discipline, and tactics on an Irish battlefield. We Micks only hold a grudge about such things for 300 years or so.

Nor is Scottish independence a misery-loves-company moment for us Irish. True, Irish independence has been no bed of shamrocks, what with the Easter Rebellion, the black-and-tans, the civil war, the IRA, and the Celtic Tiger turning out to be a mangy barn cat drowned in the well.

We Irish don’t hate the Scots per se. They’re too much like us Irish, who all hate each other. So we’re just looking for a fine entertainment from across the Irish Sea as Highland Scots have a donnybrook with Lowland Scots, Glaswegians dust up with Edinburghians, and Clan Dewers unsheathes its claymores for battle with Clan Johnny Walker. …

 

 

We get a more serious look from Tom Wilson in Contentions.

At first the Scottish referendum was regarded as a bit of a joke. It was being called, if anything, to put the matter to bed. Yet in recent days the first polls have emerged suggesting that the number of Scots preparing to vote for secession may have just surpassed those wishing to remain in the union. This has caused a sudden sense of panic in Westminster. Some have already called on Prime Minister David Cameron to resign, or at least call an election, should Scotland vote to exit the United Kingdom. Even Henry Kissinger has weighed in and voiced his opposition to Britain “getting any smaller.” But the truth is that, very suddenly, the UK looks dangerously close to splitting in two.

David Cameron insists that he is a staunch defender of the union. Yet, as many have pointed out, losing Scotland wouldn’t be all bad for someone of Cameron’s outlook. For one thing, no Scotland could well mean no more Labor governments for the foreseeable future. All of the close elections won by Labor would have gone to the Conservatives had the Scottish vote been discounted. Then there’s the fact that, when it comes to public services, Scotland takes out far more from the national budget than it contributes. Lastly, while Scotland is more pro-European than England, should Scotland leave, it is hard to imagine the remnants of the United Kingdom having the appetite for going it alone and leaving the EU as well, something which Cameron also opposes. …

 

 

Nate Silver at the 538 Blog suggests Roger Goodell is paid well beyond his value to the NFL.

… The modest rate of franchise value growth under Goodell has come from a very high baseline — and perhaps some decline in the rate of growth was inevitable given how prodigiously they grew under Tagliabue. In absolute dollar terms — not percentages — NFL franchise values have risen by a collective $10.9 billion since 2006, compared with $11 billion for baseball, $7.5 billion for the NBA and $6.6 billion for the NHL. The NFL is still a hugely profitable business, and even poorly run franchises tend to make money because of the league’s aggressive revenue sharing and relatively favorable contractual agreements with players. According to Forbes, only the Detroit Lions lost money in 2013, and the league’s 32 franchises earned a collective $1.7 billion in operating income.

At the same time, the NFL did such a good job of expanding its reach and protecting its brand under Tagliabue and Pete Rozelle that even a mediocre commissioner could be in a position to look good. Compared to his predecessors and his counterparts in other leagues, Goodell’s value to the NFL’s bottom line hasn’t been quite so clear.

 

 

Apple season is upon us so we have a few posts on them. A writer for The Atlantic has nothing good to say for the Red Delicious. In order to save space we will use only the pull quote here. Follow the link if you want the rest.

At the supermarket near his home in central Virginia, Tom Burford likes to loiter by the display of Red Delicious. He waits until he spots a store manager. Then he picks up one of the glossy apples and, with a flourish, scrapes his fingernail into the wax: T-O-M.

“We can’t sell that now,” the manager protests.

To which Burford replies, in his soft Piedmont drawl: “That’s my point.”

Burford, who is 79 years old, is disinclined to apple destruction. His ancestors scattered apple seeds in the Blue Ridge foothills as far back as 1713, and he grew up with more than 100 types of trees in his backyard orchard. He is the author of Apples of North America, an encyclopedia of heirloom varieties, and travels the country lecturing on horticulture and nursery design. But his preservationist tendencies stop short of the Red Delicious and what he calls the “ramming down the throats of American consumers this disgusting, red, beautiful fruit.”

His words contain the paradox of the Red Delicious: alluring yet undesirable, the most produced and arguably the least popular apple in the United States. It lurks in desolation. Bumped around the bottom of lunch bags as schoolchildren rummage for chips or shrink-wrapped Rice Krispies treats. Waiting by the last bruised banana in a roadside gas station, the only produce for miles. Left untouched on hospital trays, forlorn in the fruit bowl at hotel breakfast buffets, bereft in nests of gift-basket raffia.

As genes for beauty were favored over those for taste, the skins grew tough and bitter around mushy, sugar-soaked flesh.

For at least 70 years, the Red Delicious has dominated apple production in the United States. But since the turn of the 21st century, as the market has filled with competitors—the Gala, the Fuji, the Honeycrisp—its lead has been narrowing. …

 

 

We cut the above short because we wanted to save space for the following from The New Yorker on apple breeding.

… since apples and humans go way back—Thoreau begins his essay “Wild Apples” by noting, “It is remarkable how closely the history of the Apple-tree is connected with that of man”—a little backstory is necessary.

 

Malus pumila, of the family Rosaceae and the tribe Pyreae, was domesticated some four thousand years ago, in the fruit forests of what is now southeastern Kazakhstan, near the city of Almaty. Frank Browning, the author of “Apples,” reports seeing apple trees growing up through cracks in the pavement there. The wild horses of the nearby steppe liked to eat apples, and could cover long distances, carrying the seeds in their guts. Apples travelled westward along trade routes, and show up in Persia around the time of Alexander the Great, and in Europe not long after; the Romans cultivated them widely. (The apple in the Garden of Eden was most likely a pomegranate, or possibly an orange.) The species came to the New World with the first European settlers, in the form of seeds, and the pioneers, as they pushed westward, took apples with them.

 

By the time of the Civil War, there were many kinds of apples growing across the United States, but most of them didn’t taste very good, and as a rule people didn’t eat them. Cider was cheaper to make than beer, and many settlers believed fermented drinks were safer than water. Everyone drank hard cider. President John Adams drank a tankard before breakfast. Babies drank it before going to bed. At the end of the nineteenth century, when Carry Nation took up her axe in the service of the temperance movement, she likely employed it on apple trees as well as saloons. By the beginning of the twentieth century, the apple had a serious public-relations problem. …

… David Bedford, its inventor, is a wiry, bushy-browed, sixty-year-old horticulturist, who speaks with a residual drawl from his early years in North Carolina, where his father was a preacher and his mother waan amateur biologist. As a child, he loved all kinds of fruit except apples. “I can still remember that Red Delicious apple—that sweet but overripe smell and that mealy soft texture,” he told me. “Kids trade their snacks, but no one would trade for a Red Delicious.”

Bedford attended WheatonCollege in Illinois, where, as a biology major, he became interested in plant breeding, and where he tasted a really good apple for the first time. Another student had brought a bushel back from Michigan. “I said, ‘Oh, my gosh, this is what I’ve been missing.’ It was the beginning of my awakening.” Upon graduation, he worked for three years in a nursery in Rapid City, South Dakota, and then went back to school for a master’s degree in horticulture at ColoradoStateUniversity. In 1979, he took a job at the University of Minnesota’s horticultural station, which maintains one of only three large-scale apple-breeding programs in the country. …

… With all these new trees coming on each year, you won’t have space unless you thin out the duds.” He sprayed another tree trunk with the mark of death. “But it is kind of nerve-racking, because you want to give the tree a chance to do its best. No one wants to be known as the guy who killed the next Honeycrisp.”

Bedford was very nearly that guy. In 1982, the year he took over the breeding program, he was looking through the trees that his predecessor in the job wanted removed. One was MN 1711, a variety that had achieved élite status and been cloned, but had not done well for several years. The mother tree had been damaged by a particularly cold winter the year before, and the four clones had been marked for termination. In studying the data, however, Bedford noticed that the mother tree had been planted in one of the lowest, wettest parts of the orchard. “So I thought, We’ll give that apple one more year,” he said. That apple turned out to be Honeycrisp. Released in 1991, thirty-one years after the original cross was made, it has become the apple of Bedford’s dreams—the humble Minnesota apple that made it onto the national, and then the international, stage. It brought a new kind of texture to apples: flesh that was crunchy but not hard or dense. “That changed the whole game,” Fred Wilklow, the owner of Wilklow Orchards, told me one Saturday this fall when I dropped in at the greenmarket in Borough Hall, Brooklyn, to buy some of his apples. As we were talking, another customer overheard the word “Honeycrisp.”

“Oh, my God, Honeycrisp—they are the best!” she said.

“See what I mean?” Farmer Fred said.

“What’s amazing about Honeycrisp,” Brian Nicholson, the president of Red Jacket Orchards, in New York’s Finger Lakes region, told me recently, “is that it brings in people who don’t even like apples that much—people who prefer peaches or berries or whatever. So it just expands the apple’s share of the fruit basket, and that helps all growers.” The patent, which expired in 2008, combined with sales rights abroad, earned the University of Minnesota more than ten million dollars in royalties, making it the third-most-valuable invention ever produced there, after Ziagen, a drug used to treat H.I.V., and a vaccine that prevents P.R.R.S., a reproductive and respiratory virus in pigs. In 2006, the Association of University Technology Managers named Honeycrisp one of twenty-five innovations that changed the world, along with Google and the V-chip….

September 15, 2014

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OK, time to turn our attention to the jerks in Washington. Daniel Henninger writes about humbling of one of them.

… There is a story about Mr. Obama relevant to the war, battle or whatever he declared Wednesday evening against the Islamic State, aka ISIS. It is found in his former campaign manager David Plouffe’s account of the 2008 election, “The Audacity to Win.”

Mr. Plouffe writes that during an earlier election race, Mr. Obama had a “hard time allowing his campaign staff to take more responsibility.” To which Barack Obama answered: “I think I could probably do every job on the campaign better than the people I’ll hire to do it.” Audacity indeed.

In a 2008 New Yorker article by Ryan Lizza, Mr. Obama is quoted telling another aide: “I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors.” Also, “I think I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters.” …

… Worse than misstatements have been the misdecisions on policy: the erased red line in Syria, the unattainable reset with Vladimir Putin‘s brainwashed Russia, the nuclear deal with the ruling shadows in Iran. The first two bad calls have pitched significant regions of the world into crises of virtually unmanageable complexity.

What we now know is that Mr. Obama is not even close to being his own best Secretary of State, his own best Secretary of Defense, his own best national security adviser or his own best CIA director.

The question is: Does he know it?

Can a humbling experience of such startling proportions have sunk in? …

 

 

Henninger is with the Wall Street Journal. How about Peter Baker from the NY Times

When President Obama addresses the nation on Wednesday to explain his plan to defeat Islamic extremists in Iraq and Syria, it is a fair bet he will not call them the “JV team.”

Nor does he seem likely to describe Iraq as “sovereign, stable and self-reliant” with a “representative government.” And presumably he will not assert after more than a decade of conflict that “the tide of war is receding.”

As he seeks to rally Americans behind a new military campaign in the Middle East, Mr. Obama finds his own past statements coming back to haunt him. Time and again, he has expressed assessments of the world that in the harsh glare of hindsight look out of kilter with the changed reality he now confronts.

In making his speech, Mr. Obama faces the challenge of reconciling those views with the new mission he is presenting to the American public to recommit the armed forces of the United States to the region he tried to leave. Rather than a junior varsity nuisance, he will try to convince Americans that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria represents a clear threat to national security in a state that is hardly stable. And he will seek to win patience for more war from a public that wishes it really was receding.

To Mr. Obama’s critics, the disparity between the president’s previous statements and today’s reality reflects not simply poorly chosen words but a fundamentally misguided view of the world. Rather than clearly see the persistent dangers as the United States approaches the 13th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, they said, Mr. Obama perpetually imagines a world as he wishes it were.

“I don’t think it is just loose talk, I think it’s actually revealing talk,” said Peter H. Wehner, a former adviser to President George W. Bush now at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. “Sometimes words are mistakes; they’re just poorly put. But sometimes they’re a manifestation of one’s deep belief in the world and that’s what you really get with President Obama.” …

 

 

Mark Steyn posts on the ISIS speech. 

I was overseas when Obama gave his momentous ISIS address, but figured I could pretty much guess how things would go. Despite being the greatest orator of the last thousand years, he’s a complete bust at selling anything but himself, as comprehensively demonstrated in his first couple of years: see his rhetorical efforts on behalf of ObamaCare, or Massachusetts Senate candidate Martha Coakley, or Chicago’s Olympics bid. When it comes to war, he suffers from an additional burden: before he can persuade anybody else, he first has to persuade himself. And he can’t do it. So he gave the usual listless performance of a surly actor who resents the part he’s been given. It’s not just the accumulation of equivocations and qualifications – the “Islamic State” is not Islamic, our war with them is not a war, there’ll be no boots on the ground except the exotic footwear of a vast unspecified coalition – but something more basic: What he mainly communicates is that he doesn’t mean it.

That’s what the jihadist militias now in control of Tripoli understood about his “leading from behind”. That’s what Putin grasped about Obama’s “red line” in Syria. And that’s what any Isis member who took time out of his beheading schedule to watch the President on CNN International will have taken away from this week’s speech. …

… One sympathizes with Obama at having to pretend to be interested in tedious briefings about which set of unlovely ingrate natives we should back against the other. He was elected to be the post-war president – Clement Attlee to Bush’s Winston Churchill, an analogy that’s almost perfect except for the minor detail that in this case the enemy did not acceot that the war was over. Still, it takes two to tango, and Obama’s principal dance move is to stand at the side of the floor looking cool. The Obama Doctrine – “Don’t do stupid sh*t” – has been rendered in non-PG version as “Don’t do stupid stuff”. But it should be more pithily streamlined yet: Don’t do. The Obama “Doctrine” attempts to dignify inertia as strategy. …

 

 

Roger Simon posts on the “nowhere man” as he goes to war. 

Pity Barack Obama.  Our hapless chief executive must be suffering from a cognitive disorder the size of Alpha Centauri.   The poor guy grew up on the anti-imperialist mouthings of lefty poet Frank Marshall Davis, schoolboy revolutionary Bill Ayers and later anti-Israel professor Rashid Khalidi, not to mention the well-known anti-American excrescences of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, and now he has to go to war — as an imperialist — against the very Third World people he was told again and again we colonized and destroyed.  His head must be about to explode.

No wonder he insisted in his Wednesday night speech that the Islamic State is not Islamic — what is it? Hindu?  Zoroastrian? A lost tribe of Hasidic Jews? …

… Welcome to nowhere war waged by a nowhere man.

Staying in a Beatles mode, we might say Obama is getting what he deserves — Instant Karma. (“Instant Karma’s gonna get you/ Gonna knock you right on the head/You better get yourself together, etc.”)

But Obama’s not going to “get himself together” because there’s no way he can.   You reap what you sow. Win the Nobel Peace Prize for no discernible reason and suffer the consequences of the famous dictum attributed to Leon Trotsky:  ”You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.”  And at this moment war is very interested in Barack Hussein Obama even though he couldn’t be less interested in it. …

 

 

Mark Steyn again.

… From Benghazi to the Baltic, the world has the measure of Obama. The only people who don’t are America’s besotted, parochial elite and the deluded electorate who made this man “leader of the free world”.

 

 

Streetwise Professor gets his turn too.

Obama’s cultists often compare him to a chess master, playing the long game. There is another chess metaphor that is far more apt, however. Specifically, there is a story that has gained wide currency in which Vladimir Putin compares Obama to a chess playing pigeon. Putin supposedly said: ”Negotiating with Obama is like playing chess with a pigeon. The pigeon knocks over all the pieces, shits on the board and then struts around like it won the game.”

This story is almost certainly false. The chess playing pigeon meme dates to far before Obama’s time. But there is no person that the story fits better. The story has resonated precisely because it is so right. If Putin didn’t say it, he should have, and he would have been dead on. …

 

 

Karen Tumulty writes for WaPo on the electorate that has finally wised up. 

Kimberly Cole was part of the coalition that voted in 2008 to make Barack Obama the 44th president and gave him another four years in 2012 to deliver on his promises of hope and change.

Now, the 36-year-old mother of three young children in Valencia, Calif., is among the majority of Americans who have lost confidence in Obama’s leadership and the job he is doing as president.

“He’s been faced with a lot of challenges, and he’s lost his way,” Cole said in an interview. She worries that Obama lacks the resolve needed at a time when things at home and abroad are looking scarier.

On the other side of the country, Karlene Richardson, 44, once counted herself a “very strong supporter” of the president. But now she feels much the same as Cole does.

“Honestly, I just feel that what I bought into is not what I’m getting,” said Richardson, an author and motivational speaker who teaches health-care administration at a community college in Queens. “I’m starting to wonder whether the world takes us seriously.”

Both Cole and Richardson were surveyed in the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll and represent one of its most striking findings: the degree to which the president’s approval has slipped among key parts of the Obama coalition — the women, youth and Latino voters most responsible for putting him into office. …

September 14, 2014

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Vasily Grossman is Pickerhead’s favorite Russian author. National Review notes the 50th anniversary of his death.

On September 14, 1964, Vasily Grossman — one of the pivotal journalists and novelists of the 20th century, although he was little known in the West — passed out of this world. An eyewitness to the brutality and suffering of the Battle of Stalingrad, Grossman would, as the Red Army pushed westward, eventually step through the gates of Treblinka and record what is perhaps the first, and is considered by many to be the most vivid, description of the atrocities that were the Nazi extermination camps. He set down his observations and thoughts in The Hell of Treblinka, an essay that would be disseminated at the Nuremberg Trials as prosecutorial evidence. The service that Grossman provided to humanity in documenting accurately the Soviet war effort on the eastern front (no small achievement for a journalist writing for the Red Army’s Krasnaya Zvezda), and later the horrors of Hitler’s Holocaust, would itself merit a tribute on the 50th anniversary of his death. Beyond these monumental historical contributions, however, lies an equally significant moral proclamation on the nature of politics and the state. …

 

 

Stuart Taylor made some news in his review of the “John Doe” investigation by a partisan Milwaukee District Attorney. Taylor quotes an assistant prosecutor who says the whole probe was a Democrat party operation. This article is long, but critical in understanding the scorched earth politics of today’s Dems. This article was published just before proceedings in a Federal Appeal Court in Chicago. It looks like the federal court will kick the case back to state courts.

… Now a longtime Chisholm subordinate reveals for the first time in this article that the district attorney may have had personal motivations for his investigation. Chisholm told him and others that Chisholm’s wife, Colleen, a teacher’s union shop steward at St. Francis high school, a public school near Milwaukee, had been repeatedly moved to tears by Walker’s anti-union policies in 2011, according to the former staff prosecutor in Chisholm’s office. Chisholm said in the presence of the former prosecutor that his wife “frequently cried when discussing the topic of the union disbanding and the effect it would have on the people involved … She took it personally.”

Citing fear of retaliation, the former prosecutor declined to be identified and has not previously talked to reporters.

Chisholm added, according to that prosecutor, that “he felt that it was his personal duty to stop Walker from treating people like this.”

Chisholm was referring to Gov. Walker’s proposal – passed by the legislature in March 2011 – to require public employee unions to contribute to their retirement and health-care plans for the first time and to limit unions’ ability to bargain for non-wage benefits.

Chisholm said his wife had joined teachers union demonstrations against Walker, said the former prosecutor. The 2011 political storm over public unions was unlike any previously seen in Wisconsin. Protestors crowded the State Capitol grounds and roared in the Rotunda. Picketers appeared outside of Walker’s private home. There were threats of boycotts and even death to Walker’s supporters. Two members of the Wisconsin Supreme Court almost came to blows. Political ad spending set new records. Wisconsin was bitterly divided.

Still, Chisholm’s private displays of partisan animus stunned the former prosecutor. “I admired him [Chisholm] greatly up until this whole thing started,” the former prosecutor said. “But once this whole matter came up, it was surprising how almost hyper-partisan he became … It was amazing … to see this complete change.”

The culture in the Milwaukee district attorney’s office was stoutly Democratic, the former prosecutor said, and become more so during Gov. Walker’s battle with the unions. Chisholm “had almost like an anti-Walker cabal of people in his office who were just fanatical about union activities and unionizing. And a lot of them went up and protested. They hung those blue fists on their office walls [to show solidarity with union protestors] … At the same time, if you had some opposing viewpoints that you wished to express, it was absolutely not allowed.”  …

 

… Moving on a parallel track in federal courts, O’Keefe and the Wisconsin Club for Growth launched their so-far successful federal civil rights suit against District Attorney Chisholm, his assistants Bruce Landgraf and David Robles, and Special Prosecutor Francis Schmitz. Their court papers accuse Chisholm and the others of using a frivolous and unconstitutional theory of “illegal coordination” to target and “silence political speech [they do] not like.”

Chisholm and his colleagues lost that case in May, when Judge Randa issued his surprisingly strong opinion, rejecting the prosecutors’ legal theory that conservative activists had illegally coordinated with Walker’s 2012 campaign as “simply wrong.”

Even if the Club and other groups did collaborate closely with Gov. Walker in raising and spending money, Judge Randa found, they had a legal right to do so under both Wisconsin law and the U.S. Constitution.

The prosecutors had argued that coordinated issue ads are tantamount to a campaign contribution and thus subject to the laws limiting contributions and requiring disclosure of donors, even if they stop short of urging a vote for a candidate.

But, Judge Randa held, coordinated ads can constitutionally be regulated only if they contain “express advocacy” or its “functional equivalent.” That’s campaign-finance-law jargon for a clear appeal to vote for or against a specific candidate.

Flashing outrage at the investigators’ pre-dawn raids by armed officers who carried off files and computers, cellphones, and more from the homes of conservative activists, Randa wrote that “attempts to purify the public square lead to … the Guillotine and the Gulag.”

In handing down his decision to temporarily halt the investigation, Judge Randa ruled that the prosecutors have no “reasonable expectation of obtaining a valid conviction.”

Chisholm and his allies appealed to the federal Seventh Circuit in Chicago. The plaintiffs’ high-powered, hard-charging Washington lawyer, David Rivkin and his team have squared off against the prosecutors’​ lawyers in their briefs and will do so in the oral argument today. …

 

 

Kevin Williamson warns against dangers that often look benign. He makes the case that moose and honey bees have proven more dangerous than sharks. From that he suggests that many government actions will prove to be dangerous.

… The wolf, a staple of our fairy tales and films such as The Grey, is another creature that haunts our imagination, though North American wolf attacks are so incredibly rare that wolf scholars work with individual episodes rather than aggregate statistics. Domestic dogs, on the other hand, kill dozens of people each year. “What if there’s bears?” may be the stuff of nightmares, but you are in fact more likely to be attacked by a moose. …

 

… We certainly invent things to worry about when it comes to politics. Some of my more enthusiastic correspondents on the right send me missives about President Obama’s secret plan to install himself as president-for-life and suspend the 2016 elections, …

… Heavy debt, dysfunctional families, unfunded and unfundable liabilities, economic stagnation, official corruption, lawless government, overrun borders, social cohesion strained to the breaking point . . .

We’re gonna need a bigger boat. 

 

 

As an example of the dangers of government, The NY Times tells us that leftist governments have proved to be harmful to our health. Turns out people of the former East Germany are living longer since they have thrown off the communist yoke.

The life expectancy of East Germans has risen sharply since their state was reunified with the more prosperous West in 1990, a new study shows. Reunification added 6.2 years to the life of men in the former East and 4.2 years to their female counterparts, according to calculations by Tobias Vogt, of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, that were published ahead of the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall this year. If East Germany still existed, boys born in 2011 could expect to live to the age of 70.9, while girls would have a life expectancy of 78.7 years, the study showed. But in a reunified Germany boys born in 2011 were forecast to live to 77.1, and girls to 82.9. Mr. Vogt cited improvements in medical treatment and an improved standard of living as the reason.

  

 

PriceOnomics treats us to the story of the fake crying Indian.

On Earth Day, 1971, nonprofit organization Keep America Beautiful launched what the Ad Council would later call one of the “50 greatest commercials of all time.” Dubbed “The Crying Indian,” the one-minute PSA features a Native American man paddling down a junk-infested river, surrounded by smog, pollution, and trash; as he hauls his canoe onto the plastic-infested shore, a bag of rubbish is tossed from a car window, exploding at his feet. The camera then pans to the Indian’s cheerless face just as a single tear rolls down his cheek. 

The ad, which sought to combat pollution, was widely successful: It secured two Clio awards, incited a frenzy of community involvement, and helped reduce litter by 88% across 38 states. Its star performer, a man who went by the name “Iron Eyes Cody,” subsequently became the “face of Native Indians,” and was honored with a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. Advertisers estimate that his face, plastered on billboards, posters, and magazine ads, has been viewed 14 billion times, easily making him the most recognizable Native American figure of the century.

But while Hollywood trumpeted Iron Eyes Cody as a “true Native American” and profited from his ubiquitous image, the man himself harbored an unspoken secret: he was 100% Italian. …

September 11, 2014

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Joel Kotkin with a provocative essay on the growing class divide in the US. Not race, class.

Recent events in Ferguson, Missouri and along the U.S.-Mexico border may seem to suggest that race has returned as the signature issue in American politics. We can see this already in the pages of mainstream media, with increased calls for reparations for African-Americans, and expanded amnesties for the undocumented. Increasingly, any opposition to Obama’s policies is blamed on deep-seated white racism.

Yet in reality, race will not define the 2014 election, or likely those that follow. Instead the real defining issue—class—does not fit so easily into the current political calculus. In terms of racial justice, we have made real progress since the ’60s, when even successful educated minorities were discriminated against and the brightest minority students were often discouraged from attending college. Today an African-American holds the highest office in the land, and African Americans also fill the offices of U.S. attorney general and national security advisor. This makes the notion that race thwarts success increasingly outdated.

But at the same time that formal racial barriers have been demolished, the class divide continues to grow steeper than in at any time in the nation’s recent history. Today America’s class structure is increasingly ossified, and this affects not only minorities, who are hit disproportionately, but also many whites, who constitute more than 40 percent of the nation’s poor. Upward mobility has stalled under both Bush and Obama, not only for minorities but for vast swaths of working class and middle class Americans. Increasingly, it’s not the color of one’s skin that determines one’s place in society, but access to education and capital, often the inherited variety.

Worries about upward mobility have been mounting for a generation, and according to Pew, only one-third of Americans currently believe the next generation will do better than them. Indeed, in some surveys pessimism about the next generation stands at an all-time high.

But race is not the main determinant in looking to the future. The greatest dismay, in fact, is felt among working class and middle class whites, who are generally much more pessimistic about the future for themselves than are either African-Americans or Hispanics.

This pessimism—for all the discussion on campuses about “white privilege”—is even more deeply seated among young whites. According to a poll conducted by the left-leaning advocacy group Demos, only 12 percent of whites 18 to 34 believe they will do better than their parents, compared to 31 percent for African-Americans and 36 percent among young Hispanics. …

 

Neatly dovetailing with Kotkin’s ideas, is a NY Times article by Ross Douthat on the Rotherham scandal as he compares it to other deprivations by powerful and/or untouchable men.

… what happened in Rotherham was rooted both in left-wing multiculturalism and in much more old-fashioned prejudices about race and sex and class. The local bureaucracy was, indeed, too fearful of being labeled “racist,” too unwilling, as a former member of Parliament put it, to “rock the multicultural community boat.” But the rapes also went unpunished because of racially inflected misogyny among police officers, who seemed to think that white girls exploited by immigrant men were “tarts” who deserved roughly what they got.

The crucial issue in both scandals isn’t some problem that’s exclusive to traditionalism or progressivism. Rather, it’s the protean nature of power and exploitation, and the way that very different forms of willful blindness can combine to frustrate justice. …

… And in Rotherham, it meant men whose ethnic and religious background made them seem politically untouchable, and whose victims belonged to a class that both liberal and conservative elements in British society regard with condescension or contempt.

The point is that as a society changes, as what’s held sacred and who’s empowered shifts, so do the paths through which evil enters in, the prejudices and blind spots it exploits.

So don’t expect tomorrow’s predators to look like yesterday’s. Don’t expect them to look like the figures your ideology or philosophy or faith would lead you to associate with exploitation.

Expect them, instead, to look like the people whom you yourself would be most likely to respect, most afraid to challenge publicly, or least eager to vilify and hate.

Because your assumptions and pieties are evil’s best opportunity, and your conventional wisdom is what’s most likely to condemn victims to their fate.

 

 

Wired writes on the SS United States. 

This rust bucket is the SS United States, a once glorious vessel now moored next to a South Philadelphia shopping mall, where it’s been sitting in decay for 18 years, racking up roughly $60,000 a month in rent. Paint is peeling off its hull. The interior, stripped of previously asbestos-laden innards, is mostly bare. It doesn’t look like it now, but it is possibly the most impressive watercraft ever produced by the United States.

Active from 1952 to 1969, the SS US carried civilians between America and Europe quickly, safely, and comfortably. In the late 1960s, the booming airline industry, equipped with the jumbo Boeing 747, rendered the ocean liner obsolete. After nearly two decades in Philly, the ship has run up a huge tab and the SS United States Conservancy, a group that bought the ship in 2011 and intends to preserve it, is running out of money. If they don’t raise more funds soon, they’ll likely have to cede ownership, at which point it’ll likely be sold to the highest-bidding scrap dealer. “She is a very much endangered piece of American history,” says Thomas Basile, an adviser to the Conservancy. “We could be within a month of having to decide her state.”

The history of the SS US dates back to 1916, when William Francis Gibbs, whose naval architecture firm later designed more than half the American armored ships used in World War II, started working on the ship’s design. He spent the next 40 years overseeing its completion, up to its 1952 maiden voyage. The U.S. military got involved and financed two thirds of the $78 million ($780 million in 2014) construction costs near the end of the process, when Gibbs pitched the ship as a way to bring hundreds of thousands of soldiers home from Europe. …

  

 

From the SS United States as an example of the strengths of our country in the middle of the last century, we take a trip to China. Right across the border from Hong Kong into China proper is the city of Shenzhen (population fifteen million). That’s not a misprint, the city has 15,000,000 inhabitants. Most striking though is that in 1980 the population was only 330,000. It is the gateway to China’s manufacturing in Guangdong Province.  We have a short tour of the area from Joi Ito who is Director of MIT’s Media Lab. He says the area is a high-tech manufacturing ecosystem.

… After AQS, we visited King Credie, which made the actual printed circuit boards (PCBs). The PCB manufacturing process is a sophisticated process involving adding layers while also etching and printing all kind of materials such as solder, gold, and various chemicals involving many steps and complex controls. They were working on some very sophisticated hybrid PCBs that included ceramic layers and flexible layers –  processes that are very difficult and considered exotic anywhere else in the world, but directly accessible to us thanks to a close working relationship with the factory.

We also visited an injection molding plant. … Most of the plastic parts for everything from cellphones to baby car seats are made using an injection molding process. The process involves creating “tools” which are the huge steel molds that the plastic is injected into. The process is difficult because if you want a mirror finish, the mold has to have a mirror finish. If you need 1/1000th of an inch tolerance in production, you have to cut the steel molds at that precision. Also, you have to understand how the plastic is going to flow into the mold through multiple holes in the mold and make sure that it enters evenly and cools properly without warping or breaking.

The factory we visited had a precision machine shop and the engineering expertise to design and machine our injection molding tools, but our initial production volume was too low for them to be interested in the business. They wanted orders of millions of units and we only needed thousands.

In an interesting twist, the factory boss suggested that we could build the precision molding tools in China and then send these tools to a US shop for running production. Due to our requirement for clean-room processing, he thought it would be cheaper to run production in the US — but the US shops didn’t have the expertise or capability that his shop in China had to produce the tools; and even if they did, they couldn’t touch his cost for such value-added services.

This role reversal is an indicator of how the technology, trade, and know-how for injection molding has shifted to Shenzhen. Even if US has the manufacturing capacity, key parts of the knowledge ecosystem currently exist only in Shenzhen. …

… While intellectual property seems to be mostly ignored, tradecraft and trade secrets seem to be shared selectively in a complex network of family, friends and trusted colleagues. This feels a lot like open source, but it’s not. The pivot from piracy to staking out intellectual property rights isn’t a new thing. The United States blatantly stole book copyright until it developed it’s own publishing very early in US history. The Japanese copied US auto companies until it found itself in a leadership position. It feels like Shenzhen is also at this critical point where a country/ecosystem goes from follower to leader.

When we visited DJI which makes the Phantom Aerial UAV Drone Quadcopter we saw a company that was ahead. They are a startup that is growing at 5X / year. They have one of the most popular drones ever designed for the consumer market. They are one of the top 10 patent holders in China. They were clearly benefiting from the tradecraft of the factories but also very aware of the importance of being clean (and aggressive) from an IP perspective. DJI had the feel of a Silicon Valley startup mashed together with the work ethic and tradecraft of the factories we had been visiting.

We also visited a very high-end, top-tier mobile phone factory that made millions of phones. All of the parts were delivered by robots from a warehouse that was completely automated. The processes and the equipment were the top of the line and probably as sophisticated any factory in the world.

We also visited a tiny shop that could assemble very sophisticated boards in single-unit volumes for a price comparable to a typical monthly cable TV bill, because they would make them by hand. They place barely visible chips onto boards by hand and had a soldering technique that Americans will tell you can only be done by a $50,000 machine. What amazed me was that they used no assisted vision. …

… What we experienced was an entire ecosystem. From the bespoke little shop making 50 blinking computer controlled burning man badges to the guy rebuilding a phone while eating a Big Mac to the cleanroom with robots scurrying around delivering parts to rows and rows of SMTs – the low cost of labor was the driving force to pull most of the world sophisticated manufacturing here, but it was the ecosystem that developed the network of factories and the tradecraft that allows this ecosystem to produce just about anything at any scale.

Just like it is impossible to make another Silicon Valley somewhere else, although everyone tries – after spending four days in Shenzhen, I’m convinced that it’s impossible to reproduce this ecosystem anywhere else.  …

… I do believe that other regions have regional advantages – Boston might be able to compete with Silicon Valley on hardware and bioengineering. Latin America and regions of Africa may be able compete with Shenzhen on access to certain resources and markets. However, I believe that Shenzhen, like Silicon Valley, has become such a “complete” ecosystem that we’re more likely to be successful building networks to connect with Shenzhen than to compete with it head on.

 

 

Andrew Malcolm with late night humor.

Fallon: President Obama made a surprise visit to Stonehenge the other day. Even crazier, today he made a surprise visit to the White House!

Conan: Reno is celebrating itself now as the world’s divorce capital. Also the city is planning an exhibit at its Children’s Museum called: “It’s All Your Fault.”

Conan: More Ray Rice fallout. He’s been taken out of the ‘Madden NFL 15′ game. A company spokesman says, “Violence against women doesn’t belong in ‘Madden 15.’ It belongs in ‘Grand Theft Auto.’”

Meyers: Obama announces his plans for the ISIS threat this week. It’s become an incredibly difficult situation. At this point, I think you just tell Liam Neeson they have his daughter.

 

A whole week without the white house wimp. We’ll get back to that next week. In the meantime, the cartoons are stacking up so here’s a bunch for the end of the week.

September 10, 2014

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John Fund with background on the vote for Scottish Independence.

The new YouGov poll on Scotland’s September 18 vote on independence shows “yes” in the lead for the first time, by a narrow 51 percent to 49 percent. The reason British politicians are now scrambling to offer Scotland more powers is that until now YouGov had been the poll showing the least support for separation.

British treasury secretary George Osborne has quickly promised that within days Scottish voters will be offered “more tax powers, more spending powers, more power over the welfare state.” He pledged that “Scotland will have the best of both worlds” by avoiding “the risks of separation” while acquiring “more control over their own destiny.” For many Scots, the last-minute offer lacks credibility for its lateness. Moreover, the offer comes after several hundred thousand votes have already been cast by mail.

Supporters of independence say that if Scotland goes it alone, British prime minister David Cameron will bear most of the blame. Jim McColl, one of Scotland’s wealthiest businessmen and a backer of independence, criticized Cameron in this vein when he spoke recently to the Independent. If Cameron had accepted Scotland’s offer to have a third question on the ballot that offered Osborne’s latest proposals, McColl said, “then that is what we would have got — everyone would have voted for more powers, but remaining part of the U.K.”

But Cameron insisted on a single “yes” or “no” ballot question that would force Scottish voters to make a clear choice, reflecting his belief that most Scots would flinch from a complete break. Indeed, at the time when the referendum was negotiated in 2012, a full 63 percent of Scots opposed outright independence. …

… Prime Minister Cameron insists he would not resign from office should Scotland vote itself out of its 300-year-old union with Britain, but there would be enormous public pressure for the “man who lost Scotland” to leave.

That would be an added bonus to Scotland’s independence, since increasingly Cameron — with his milquetoast views on the EU and his enthusiasm for climate-change regulation — has less and less of a claim to being a true ally of liberty. His departure would give British conservatives a chance to elect a new leader who might have a chance of limiting the number of votes lost to the thriving United Kingdom Independence Party and keeping Labour out of office. That could be a so-far-unexplored silver lining of Scotland’s “yes” vote for independence.

 

 

A negative view of the proceedings from Nile Gardiner

Next week’s referendum on Scottish independence has largely flown under the radar screen here in the United States. The cable news networks have devoted little attention so far to the issue, as the Isil threat in the Middle East continues to dominate international coverage. There has been no polling conducted on the Scottish question in the US, and it is doubtful that many Americans outside of the Washington policy bubble or the financial milieu of New York are particularly exercised by the outcome of a vote taking place over 3,000 miles away.

They should be concerned, however. What happens in Scotland will reverberate on this side of the Atlantic, and not for the better. Here are five reasons why Americans should be nervous about the outcome of next week’s vote if Scotland votes for independence. …

 

 

Paul Ryan gets a look from Matthew Continetti.

“We can fix these problems,” Paul Ryan tells me. He’s referring to the sluggish economy, the rising cost of living, broken immigration and health care systems, burdensome regulations, and stifling tax code. What would it take? The Republican Party has to win the Senate in 2014 and the White House in 2016.

Easier said than done. Especially when conservatives face an enemy inside their own party: the GOP consultant class.

“Everyone calls it ‘the Establishment,’” Ryan says. “That’s a loose word.” What he has in mind are Republican ad makers, lobbyists, public relations guys, media consultants, speechwriters, pollsters, retired officials, and fundraisers—the hundreds of thousands of Washington operatives who make a living from center-right politics.

Affluent, secure, beholden to the bipartisan conventional wisdom that avoids social issues and ideological fights, they are alienated from and hostile to the conservative base that keeps the GOP in business. These are the real takers (a term Ryan now abjures).

“The consultant class always says play it safe, choose a risk-averse strategy,” Ryan says. “I don’t think we have the luxury of doing that. We need to treat people like adults by offering them alternatives.”

Only by forcing voters to choose, he says, can you “win the kind of mandate you need to fix the country’s problems.” The alternatives are drift, aimlessness, inertia, and hoping that liberals will somehow doom themselves.

Fat chance. Presidential politics do not favor a GOP that has lost the popular vote in five of the last six elections. Ryan points to other obstacles, such as the rising share of minority voters and the Electoral College “Blue Wall.” His conclusion: “We’re in a tough place.” …

 

 

 

David Harsanyi says the federal government is the greatest threat to our liberty.

Local governments are pocket-sized hotbeds of tyranny. The only way to stop them is by promoting a stronger federal government.  So says Franklin Foer in the New Republic.

Here’s the kicker of his piece:

“Centuries ago, in the age of monarchs, the preservation of liberty required constraining the power of the central state. In our era, protecting rights requires the opposite. Only a strong federal government can curb the autocratic tendencies burbling across the country. Libertarians worry about the threat of local tyrants, too, but only abstractly. In practice, they remain so fixated on the perils of Washington that they rigidly insist on devolving power down to states, cities, and towns—the very places where their nightmares are springing to life.”

Nearly everything is wrong with this paragraph.

 

 

More on the Rotherham, England story. This time from the NY Times.

It started on the bumper cars in the children’s arcade of the local shopping mall. Lucy was 12, and a group of teenage boys, handsome and flirtatious, treated her and her friends to free rides and ice cream after school.

Over time, older men were introduced to the girls, while the boys faded away. Soon they were getting rides in real cars, and were offered vodka and marijuana. One man in particular, a Pakistani twice her age and the leader of the group, flattered her and bought her drinks and even a mobile phone. Lucy liked him.

The rapes started gradually, once a week, then every day: by the war memorial in Clifton Park, in an alley near the bus station, in countless taxis and, once, in an apartment where she was locked naked in a room and had to service half a dozen men lined up outside.

She obliged. How could she not? They knew where she lived. “If you don’t come back, we will rape your mother and make you watch,” they would say.

At night, she would come home and hide her soiled clothes at the back of her closet. When she finally found the courage to tell her mother, just shy of her 14th birthday, two police officers came to collect the clothes as evidence, half a dozen bags of them.

But a few days later, they called to say the bags had been lost.

“All of them?” she remembers asking. A check was mailed, 140 pounds, or $232, for loss of property, and the family was discouraged from pressing charges. It was the girl’s word against that of the men. The case was closed. …