July 31, 2014

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Before we get to other subjects, one more item on Israel and Hamas. This from David Harsanyi asking what in the world John Kerry is doing? 

… It seems like a rather big deal that Egypt, Israel, Fatah, Jordan, Saudi Arabia—ostensibly, all allies of ours—agree on anything. This development, one imagines, might be something the United States would be interested in fostering rather than destroying. Certainly, the idea that Hamas’ power should be neutralized and the influence of the “moderate” Palestinian authority expanded, sounds like a plan worth pursuing.

Or so you would think. But instead, it looks like Kerry ignored an Egyptian-led ceasefire effort and handed Israelis a document that offered them this:

Rather than empowering Fatah, it recognizes Hamas as the legitimate authority in the Gaza Strip, although it’s considered a terrorist organization by the Justice Department and an entity that’s founding principle and driving purpose is to eliminate Israel and replace it with an Islamic state.

Rather than choking off this organization’s lifeline, the agreement would have allowed them to collect billions in ‘charity’ that would be been able to use to rearm, retrench, and re-engage in hostilities.

And all the while, it would have made no demands on Hamas to purge itself of rockets, or tunnels, or other weaponry that destabilizes the area—while at the same, the ceasefire would have limited Israel’s ability to take them out. (Update: This final point is disputed by U.S. officials.)

Hamas would have conceded nothing. No nation would have accepted such terms, not after what’s transpired, and naturally it was rejected unanimously by an Israeli cabinet that includes the ideological left, center, and right. Not only did the proposal irritate Israel—a nation often accused of warmongering for kicks—but it also upset Egypt and the Palestinian Authority. …



Kevin Williamson points out what a disaster liberal government is for the middle class.

… there exists a spectrum of possible configurations of government, and the fundamental political debate of our time is whether we’re on the right side of that spectrum or the wrong side. Conservatives want to prune back the vines, and progressives want them to grow thicker.

How’s that working out in the laboratories of the Left?

Progressives argue that we need deeper government involvement in the economy in order to assuage the ill effects of economic inequality. But, as Joel Kotkin points out, inequality is the most pronounced in places where progressives dominate: New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago. The more egalitarian cities are embedded in considerably more conservative metropolitan areas in conservative states. “Part of the difference,” Mr. Kotkin writes, “is the strong growth of higher-paid, blue-collar jobs in places like Houston, Oklahoma City, Salt Lake, and Dallas compared to rapidly de-industrializing locales such as New York, San Francisco, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Even Richard Florida, the guru of the ‘creative class,’ has admitted that the strongest growth in mid-income jobs has been concentrated in red-state metros such as Salt Lake City, Houston, Dallas, Austin, and Nashville. Some of this reflects a history of later industrialization but other policies — often mandated by the state — encourage mid-income growth, for example, by not imposing high energy prices with subsidies for renewables, or restricting housing growth in the periphery. Cities like Houston may seem blue in many ways but follow local policies largely indistinguishable from mainstream Republicans elsewhere.” In Detroit, Chicago, and Philadelphia, African Americans earn barely half of what whites earn —  and in San Francisco, African Americans earn less than half of what whites earn. Hispanics in Boston earn 50 percent of what whites make; but it is 84 percent in Riverside County, Calif., a traditional Republican stronghold (it holds the distinction of being one of only two West Coast counties to have gone for Hoover over FDR and is Duncan Hunter’s turf), and the figures are comparable in places such as Phoenix and Miami.

Progressivism is a luxury good for college-educated white people. It is the Hermes sneaker of political tendencies. California is not an especially wealthy state — its median income is right between Wyoming’s and Nebraska’s — but it is a state in which one needs to be pretty well off to live decently. …

… Public-school teachers are insistent on maintaining their monopoly status, but in big cities such as Chicago they are unusually likely to send their own children to private schools. Similarly, Barack Obama thinks that school choice is great — for his daughters, but not for yours. They can make a mess of your schools, your neighborhoods, your community — they don’t live there.

That, too, is why conservatives favor government on the modest, manageable, local level. And that is why progressives want to centralize political power in Washington, and why they have more success in big cities such as Los Angeles and New York: If you were screwing the poor and the struggling while alleging to act on their behalf, would you be able to look them in the eye? Would you want to?



A WSJ OpEd with good examples of how the 1% gains and the great middle suffers this time at the hands of the Fed. 

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen has said the central bank’s goal is “to help Main Street not Wall Street,” and many liberal commentators seem convinced that she is advancing that goal. But talk to anyone on Wall Street. If they are being frank, they’ll admit that the Fed’s loose monetary policy has been one of the biggest contributors to their returns over the past five years. Unwittingly, it seems, liberals who support the Fed are defending policies that boost the wealth of the wealthy but do nothing to reduce inequality. …

… Over the past decade, easy-money policies also have fueled the rise of an industry that transforms raw commodities—from soybeans to steel and oil—into financial products, such as exchange-traded funds, that can be traded like stocks. Hundreds of billions of dollars have poured into these products. In many cases, large investors hold the commodities in storage, driving up demand and the price.

On average, prices for commodities from oil to coffee to eggs are up 40% since 2009, double the typical commodity-price rebound in postwar recoveries. Though rising prices for staples such as these are inconsequential expenses to the rich, they are burdens for the poor, who spend about 10% of their income on energy and a third of it on food. Meanwhile, since bottoming in 2011, median house prices have risen four times faster than incomes, putting homes out of reach for many first-time buyers.

Leading Wall Street figures such as Stanley Druckenmiller and Seth Klarman are warning that the Fed is blowing dangerous asset-price bubbles. These warnings—given political suspicion of the financial community—seem only to confirm liberal faith in the Fed. Economists including Joseph Stiglitz and Brad DeLong cling to the hope that at least some of the easy money helps to create growth and jobs. Yet the abnormally low cost of capital is giving companies another incentive to invest in technologies that replace workers, rather than hiring more workers. …



Laura Ingraham is profiled in The Times, UK by Toby Harnden.

SHE has adopted a daughter from Guate­mala and was a speechwriter under President Reagan, who introduced an “amnesty” for three million illegal immigrants in the 1980s.

With her striking good looks and her status as the most listened-to woman on American radio talk programmes, she might have seemed the ideal person to deliver a softer Republican message, as the party hopes to appeal to Hispanic voters.

Laura Ingraham is having none of it, however. Instead, she is fast becoming the most powerful conser­vative voice denouncing any compromise on immigration and call­ing for the deportation of the Latin American children who are amassing on the southern border of the United  States.

At a raucous campaign event in Nashville last week, Ingraham accused President Barack Obama of “fomenting a crisis at our border that seeks to undermine the very fabric of American rule of law, our sovereignty, our national identity”.

Her most withering contempt was aimed at her own party’s estab­lish­ment — the “good old boys” and “go along to get along Republican politicians doing backroom backslapping” with Democrats, being as eff­ective as “beige wallpaper”.

Ingraham has already claimed the scalp of Representative Eric Cantor, the third most powerful Republican in the House of Representatives, by headlining a massive rally that helped to propel his obscure opponent to a shock victory in a party primary last month.

Her appearance in Nashville was on behalf of Joe Carr, a rough-edged candidate from Tennessee who has support from the grassroots Tea Party movement. He is standing on a “no amnesty” platform to oust Senator Lamar Alexander, a genteel deal-maker on Capitol Hill, in an August 7th primary. …



Turning our attention to another race in the South, an article from the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports on the most recent stumble of the Michelle Nunn campaign.

A hallmark of the primary season on the Democratic side was Senate candidate Michelle Nunn’s studied determination not to define herself. As of today, that’s no longer possible for her — and it’s her own campaign’s fault.

A series of internal campaign memos, totaling 144 pages and covering everything from fund-raising goals and targets to staffing needs, was leaked to National Review, which published it today. The campaign itself reportedly uploaded the plan to the Internet back in December, before quickly taking it back down. But someone found it during that brief period and — this is the impressive part — had the patience to sit on it until after the GOP run-off was over.

While much of the plan details the mundane minutia of planning a year-long, statewide campaign, other parts of it are damaging to the Nunn campaign. National Review’s Eliana Johnson, who wrote the publication’s story about the memo, puts some of those problems right at the top: …



Here is the aforementioned Eliana Johnson piece.

Michelle Nunn can come across as a “lightweight,” “too liberal,” not a “real Georgian.” While she served as CEO for the Points of Light Foundation, the organization gave grants to “inmates” and “terrorists.” And her Senate campaign must feature images of her and her family “in rural settings with rural-oriented imagery” because the Atlanta-based candidate will struggle to connect with rural voters

These may sound like attacks from the Senate candidate’s Republican rival, but in fact, those are a few of the concerns expressed in her own campaign plan, which sources say was posted online briefly in December and appears to have been drafted earlier that month. Drawing on the insights of Democratic pollsters, strategists, fundraisers, and consultants, the document contains a series of memos addressed to Nunn and her senior advisers.

From all appearances, the document was intended to remain confidential. It outlines the challenges inherent in getting Nunn, who grew up mostly in Bethesda, Md., elected to the Senate in a state with a large rural population. Her father, Sam Nunn, was elected to the Senate when she was six, and Michelle Nunn attended Washington’s prestigious National Cathedral School and then the University of Virginia and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government before returning to Georgia to do nonprofit work and, now, to seek higher office. …


Power Line has more on Nunn and we end where we started today; with Hamas.

… The Nunn campaign is concerned, as it should be, about the political implications of Points of Light’s financial contribution to Islamic Relief, USA. Eliana reports that an internal campaign strategy memo that was posted online (inadvertently, I assume) cites the contribution as a vulnerability.

One would hope so. Apart from being Sam Nunn’s daughter, Michelle Nunn’s tenure as CEO of Points of Light is just about her only credential for political office.

Nor has candidate Nunn been willing to take a stand on certain key issues, including Obamacare. For this, she has been criticized by the likes of Mika Brzezinski, Chuck Todd, and Stuart Rothenberg.

The fact that Points of Light, Nunn’s only substantive calling card, has funneled money to an organization with ties to Hamas should certainly tarnish her reputation and harm her campaign, which probably has little margin for error.



Late Night Humor from Andy Malcolm.

Meyers: A Japanese artist is launching a bonsai tree into space. Now if only he could think of something to yell during the launch.

Conan: New York Democrat Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been accused of ethics violations. If the charges prove true, the Governor of New York would be forced to step down and become the Governor of New Jersey.

Fallon: So, Montana Sen John Walsh – who’s up for re-election – plagiarized his thesis. Even worse, it’s mostly TRIPLE-spaced and he REALLY went in on the margins.

July 30, 2014

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The Jerusalem Post examines European anti-Semitism.

The acclaimed British novelist Howard Jacobson opened his speech at the B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem last October with piercing sarcasm: “The question is rhetorical. When will Jews be forgiven the Holocaust? Never.”

However, there has been a shift in the underpinnings of anti-Semitism. Israel has become the collective Jew among the nations, as the late French historian Léon Poliakov said about the new metamorphosis of Jew-hatred.

Jacobson was piggy-backing on the eye-popping insight of the Israel psychoanalyst Zvi Rex, who reportedly said: “The Germans will never forgive the Jews for Auschwitz.”

The anti-Semitic logic at work here is Europe’s pathologically guilt-filled response to the Holocaust, which, in short, is to shift the onus of blame to the Jews to cleanse one’s conscience. Two German-Jewish Marxist philosophers – Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno – coined an esoteric sociological term for what unfolded in post-Shoah Germany: Guilt-defensiveness anti-Semitism.

On the one hand, Adorno and Horkheimer may come across as kitchen-sink psychology. On the other hand, the explanatory power behind anti-Semitic guilt animating hatred of Jews and Israel can provide a window into Europe’s peculiar obsession with the Jewish state. …



Evelyn Gordon explains why the short-lived FAA ban on air travel to Israel was a big mistake.

… Whether the FAA’s decision was actually political I don’t know. Perhaps the agency was merely spooked by the previous week’s downing of a commercial airliner over Ukraine. Yet the fact that the ban was reversed two days later even though the security situation hadn’t changed, combined with the fact that major airlines like British Airways never suspended flights to begin with, support the contention that the decision, as Haaretz military analyst Amos Harel put it, “had no substantive professional basis,” and was intended primarily to browbeat Israel into accepting Secretary of State John Kerry’s completely unacceptable cease-fire proposal. 

If so, to quote Harel again, it reflected “a fundamental lack of understanding of the Israeli mindset”–and not just about the cease-fire. That single FAA decision did more than any political argument ever could to ensure that Israel won’t be leaving the West Bank anytime soon. 

Having long argued that such a withdrawal would be untenably dangerous, I’m certainly not sorry. But for the Obama administration, it was definitely an old goal.



Matthew Continetti thinks Israel can prevail as long as Hamas is not saved by this administration.

… And yet the immediate danger to the success of this necessary war does not come from the electronic intifada. It does not come from resurgent anti-Semitism, or the United Nations Human Rights Council, or the failure of so many Western elites to recognize the causes of this war, their inability to distinguish between a democratic country struggling to protect its people and a terror state using children as hostages. Hate, law-fare, decadence—they are all challenges for Israel. But Israel can endure them for now. Israel is used to it.

What Israel should not endure is the premature conclusion of hostilities. Disarming Hamas—seizing its rocket caches, collapsing its tunnels, killing and capturing its forces—is vital to Israeli security. And an artificial ceasefire imposed by outside powers, a ceasefire written in terms favorable to Hamas, would undermine the security gains Israel has made to date. President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have given no sign that they recognize this fact. Or maybe they understand it all too well: The Obama administration’s top priority is imposing a ceasefire at exactly the moment when Israel’s military success is becoming clear.

Secretary Kerry arrived in Cairo earlier this week. No one wanted him there. Egypt’s ruler, General Sisi, has no interest in saving Hamas through international diplomacy: The Muslim Brotherhood is his mortal enemy. Kerry then went from Cairo to Jerusalem, where he met with U.N. Secretary Ban Ki-moon, who flew to the meeting on a plane chartered by Qatar, Hamas’ primary source of cash. Kerry also met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is too gracious to tell the secretary to go back to Boston. (Israel’s former ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, has said publicly what the Israeli government will not: Kerry is an unwelcome guest.) Next up was Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, who honored Kerry’s presence by endorsing Hamas’s call for a “Day of Rage” in the West Bank. Kerry “will soon decide if Hamas and Israel are willing to agree on a Gaza ceasefire,” Reuters says.

Kerry will decide? Who died and made him king? …



Bret Stephens says Palestine can make you dumb. But, Pickerhead says bringing dumb to this administration is like bring coals to Newcastle. 

Of all the inane things that have been said about the war between Israel and Hamas, surely one dishonorable mention belongs to comments made over the weekend by Benjamin J. Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications.

Interviewed by CNN’s Candy Crowley, Mr. Rhodes offered the now-standard administration line that Israel has a right to defend itself but needs to do more to avoid civilian casualties. Ms. Crowley interjected that, according to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Jewish state was already doing everything it could to avoid such casualties.

“I think you can always do more,” Mr. Rhodes replied. “The U.S. military does that in Afghanistan.”

How inapt is this comparison? The list of Afghan civilians accidentally killed by U.S. or NATO strikes is not short. Little of the fighting in Afghanistan took place in the dense urban environments that make the current warfare in Gaza so difficult. The last time the U.S. fought a Gaza-style battle—in Fallujah in 2004—some 800 civilians perished and at least 9,000 homes were destroyed. This is not an indictment of U.S. conduct in Fallujah but an acknowledgment of the grim reality of city combat.

Oh, and by the way, American towns and cities were not being rocketed from above or tunneled under from below as the Fallujah campaign was under way.  ….



Roger Simon wants to know how much the UN knew about the Hamas tunnels.

… How much did the UN workers actually know about the secret tunnels? Many of them have been living in Gaza pretty much full time since the Israelis vacated Gaza voluntarily in 2005. Those of us who have been paying even partial attention to the situation remember the UN workers’ frequent complaints — augmented by the naifs in Israeli peace groups like B’Tselem – that the poor Gazans weren’t getting sufficient concrete to build their society.

Now that we know Gaza had more than enough concrete to build Olympic stadiums and chose to build terror tunnels instead, was that innocence or just a flat-out lie — and an evil one at that? We will see soon enough the proximity of tunnel entrances to UN facilities. (The Israelis have been taking pictures.)

If the UN is going to investigate the behavior of Israel, as Alan Dershowitz points out, it should investigate Hamas and the Palestinians as well. Beyond that, however, someone (Congress?) should investigate the UN. Of course, it’s possible all those UN workers were wearing ear plugs for those nine years of digging, but I wouldn’t want to bet on it. Occam’s Razor tells us there’s treachery afoot. It’s one thing, as is generally accepted, that the United Nations is one of the world’s centers of corruption and money laundering, but something else again if it’s an accessory to mass murder. …



In spite of all the facts on Israel’s side, Ron Fournier says Netanyahu should be worried.

… Every nation has a story. Israel’s is that Arabs have long been unwilling to negotiate with the Jewish state, and that terrorists among the Palestinians want to destroy it. For decades, three significant factors helped make this the dominant Middle East narrative. First, it’s correct, at least when applied to the dangerous minority of Palestinians. Second, elite opinion-makers, including journalists and politicians in the West, embraced and amplified the Israeli case. Finally, public opinion in the West, and particularly in the United States, firmly supported Israel.   

The first factor still holds. The United States would not hesitate to respond fiercely to attacks like those of Hamas. No country would. Israel has the absolute right to defend itself, and Netanyahu stood on firm ground as he described to Wallace the motives and tactics of Hamas.

The danger lies with the last two factors, starting with the near-monopoly Israel once enjoyed over the mind share of public-opinion elites. Israel must learn to act in a world of democratized media, where tweets and posts and pictures about Gazan casualties reach the global community instantaneously and without filter.

The newly interconnected world includes mainstream journalists, whose coverage of a decades-old story now includes an expanded array of sources who don’t work for a government, a lobby, or an activist group. The past few weeks have exposed a subtle but significant shift in coverage—a more empathic view of the plight of Gazans, and a greater focus on the consequences of Israel’s actions. …

Here’s a music video on the Mid-East titled Maximum Restraint. You’ll like.

July 28, 2014

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Mark Steyn posts on the president who never calls.

There was an odd moment during Tuesday’s White House press briefing when Ed Henry of Fox News noted that the President was spending three out of five days this week fundraising for his party, and wondered, in effect, whether he still did any work. Press Secretary Josh Earnest responded:

“Well, I will hazard a guess that a significant portion of the President’s time each of those days will be dedicated to participating in the presidential daily briefing, getting updates from his national security team about the situation on the ground, making phone calls to world leaders, consulting with his national security officials who are traveling across the world…”

Well, I will “hazard a guess” that he’s actually making very few “phone calls to world leaders”. Bush may have been loathed by large numbers of Europeans and Arabs, but he had very cordial relationships with their leaders, from Blair and Merkel to the brace of Abdullahs in Jordan and Saudi. Obama’s too cool to work the phones. Which helps explain that photograph above. With regard to what’s happening in Gaza, the US president has no relationships with anybody in the region who matters. To define American “allies” as broadly as possible, name one who has any reason to trust Obama or his emissaries. In Cairo, General Sisi regards Obama as a Muslim Brotherhood sympathizer; in Riyadh, King Abdullah regards him as the enabler of the Shia Persian nuclear program; and in Amman, the other King Abdullah regards him as the feckless bungler who’s left the Jordanians with the world’s wealthiest terrorist group on their eastern border.

Shuttle diplomacy, of the kind the vainglorious Kerry is attempting, only works if you already have a relationship. …



Charles Krauthammer defends President Vacant. Sort of. 

The president’s demeanor is worrying a lot of people. From the immigration crisis on the Mexican border to the Islamic State rising in Mesopotamia, Barack Obama seems totally detached from the world’s convulsions. When he does interrupt his endless rounds of golf, fundraising and photo ops, it’s for some affectless, mechanical, almost forced public statement.

Regarding Ukraine, his detachment — the rote, impassive voice — borders on dissociation. His U.N. ambassador, Samantha Power, delivers an impassioned denunciation of Russia. Obama cautions that we not “get out ahead of the facts,” as if the facts of this case — Vladimir Putin’s proxies shooting down a civilian airliner — are in doubt.

The preferred explanation for the president’s detachment is psychological. He’s checked out. Given up. Let down and disappointed by the world, he is in withdrawal.


But I’d propose an alternate theory, less psychological than intellectual, that gives him more credit: …



Jennifer Rubin posts on the tiresome passive-aggressive behavior of the administration towards Israel. Perhaps that is Valerie Jarrett’s specialty.

Chalk up a win for former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg and for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.). Both attacked the Obama administration for the Federal Aviation Administration ban on flights to Israel, Bloomberg by flying there himself and proclaiming it perfectly safe to fly into Ben Gurion and Cruz from the Senate floor in labeling it an economic boycott of Israel and demanding details about the FAA’s action. AIPAC, which is becoming increasingly vocal in its objections to U.S. policy on Gaza and on the Iran nuclear talks, went public as well, releasing a statement that called the ban “overly harsh and excessive.” The statement argued that the ban “could have the unintended effect of encouraging terrorists to become even more committed to make civil aviation a target.”

The administration bristled at the suggestion that it was, as was widely perceived, using the ban as a means of pressuring Israel. In any event, by quickly pulling the ban just hours after it was announced and the backlash ensued, the administration wound up reinforcing the conclusion that this had been a strong-arm maneuver. An administration now infamous for its passive-aggressive behavior once again was left looking feckless. …



Ed Klein, author of Blood Feud, writes on the disintegration of our foreign policy.

Wherever we look today—from the Fertile Crescent in the Middle East to the post-Cold War frontier in Ukraine to the South China Sea to our border with Mexico— our world appears to be falling apart.

This naturally raises a serious question in the minds of many people: If America, the indispensable nation, had been doing its job of holding the global system together, couldn’t this chaos and anarchy have been avoided?

The simple answer is, yes.

But if you listen to Hillary Clinton, the unraveling of the international order was inevitable under the leadership—or lack of leadership—of Barack Obama. As I reported in my book “Blood Feud,” Hillary places the blame for the sorry state of the world squarely on the man in the Oval Office.

“The thing with Obama is that he can’t be bothered, and there is no hand on the tiller half the time,” she complained to a group of friends shortly after she left her post as secretary of state. “That’s the story of the Obama presidency. No hand on the f******g tiller.” …

… Just before Caroline Kennedy took up her post as ambassador to Japan, she invited Bill and Hillary Clinton to lunch at her Park Avenue apartment in New York City. Caroline wanted to know from Hillary, the former secretary of state, what she could expect from the Obama administration.

“Don’t expect to get your real marching orders from State,” Hillary said. “The way the Obama government works, everything important in foreign policy comes from the White House. And Valerie [Jarrett] pretty much runs the show down there. You’ll feel Valerie breathing down your neck all the way to Tokyo. She’s going to have a lot to say about how you represent our country in Japan, and believe me, she won’t be shy about it.”

According to the Clintons, who later described their lunch with friends, Caroline was stunned by this news.

It should come as a sobering wakeup call to the rest of us.



John Hinderaker says even the left in Israel sees our president as an enemy.

Haaretz is Israel’s establishment, liberal newspaper. Scott once described it to me in shorthand as the New York Times of Israel. So the paper is a natural ally of a Democratic U.S. administration.

That is what makes this article by Barak Ravid remarkable. It is titled Kerry’s latest cease-fire plan: What was he thinking? …

… Hamas alone is responsible for the bloodshed, and it was never realistic to think that the Obama administration could end the fighting; not as long as Netanyahu remains determined to secure his people’s safety. Nevertheless, it is newsworthy that even Israelis on the left have come to see Obama’s foreign policy as coming from outer space.



Telegraph, UK says obama “has already checked out of his job.”

President Obama has emotionally checked out of his job a couple of years early, it seems. How can one tell?

Candidates for president who brazenly assume they are the inevitable victor are sometimes accused of “measuring the drapes” for the White House.

Obama, conversely, seems to be prematurely packing his bags in hopes for an early departure.

Just last week, for example, the Los Angeles Times reported that “The First Family is believed to be in escrow on a contemporary home in a gated community where entertainers Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby once maintained estates”. George Santayana observed that “Americans don’t solve problems, they leave them behind”. Perhaps the president is taking this to heart.

For rumours to catch fire, an element of truth must typically be involved.

The fact that the press would find relevance in speculating on Obama’s post-White House residence – and identify California as the kind of scene the future ex-president would want to hang out in when he leaves office – is perhaps telling. …

July 27, 2014

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Tunku Varadajan says if the world community wants to punish Putin, they could yank the 2018 Soccer world cup from Russia and award it to the Netherlands.

In the wake of the MH17 disaster, the world needs to make Vladimir Putin’s pride—not the Russian people—pay. And a good first step would be to stop pretending sport is politically neutral.

Days after Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine, killing all passengers and crew aboard, the world is contending with a fiendishly difficult question: What is the appropriate punitive response to this atrocity?

The civilian airliner was destroyed with a ground-to-air missile of Russian provenance, fired either by Russia-backed separatists or by the Russian military. Moral and political responsibility for the slaughter must lie, ultimately, with Moscow, even as we investigate the forensic sequence of a commander’s chilling order—“Fire!”—and an underling’s deadly compliance.

Three hundred people, 189 of them Dutch, are dead at the hands of forces who owe their loyalty to Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, the man who has thrown his weight behind the armed rebellion in Ukraine. He is in every way the separatists’ godfather. The dismemberment of Ukraine is as much his cause as theirs. So any response has to make him hurt, personally; it has to puncture his ego, his pride. And one certain way to hurt him would be to strip from Russia the right to host the 2018 World Cup. …



Michael Barone writes on the problems governments have purchasing information technology (IT).

Government don’t do IT good. Not just here in the United States, but in Britain, as this Telegraph blogpost argues. “Most nations — but especially the USA — have a woeful record when it comes to IT procurement,” writes blogger Willard Foxton, with a link to a subject that is familiar to American readers, the debacle of the Obama administration’s healthcare.gov.

Foxton goes on to say that it’s not only governments that have problems procuring information technology. So do private sector firms, he writes, citing a McKinsey & Co. report that half of large IT projects “go wildly over budget.”

There’s a difference here, though, between the private and public sectors. The private sector is held accountable in the marketplace. If IT doesn’t work, or if cost overruns raise prices to uncompetitive levels, consumers have alternatives. When government IT fails, however, the citizen doesn’t have any alternative. You stare at your computer, wondering if it might work if you hit it with a hammer.

All of which suggests that centralized command-and-control government is an unsuitable means of delivering services in the information age. …



Barone mentioned Willard Foxton’s post in a Telegraph, UK Blog. Here that is.

While I was phoning around this morning for an explanation to why the Government’s latest big IT project has ended with £350 million being flushed down the lavatory, one respected contractor told me: “I just don’t think the UK government should be allowed to buy IT at all. Maybe give them abacuses, but they could still get those wrong.”

It’s not just a problem for the UK either. Most nations – but especially the USA – have a woeful record when it comes to IT procurement. Here’s a list of the seven most expensive IT failures in US government history – and that was written before the Obama administration’s healthcare.gov debacle.

It’s not just government projects that go wrong, though. Private sector organisations, especially ones on the scale of government (like banks) have giant IT disasters all the time. According to this 2012 report by McKinsey, over half of all large IT projects go wildly over budget. 17 per cent go so badly that they threaten the commissioning company’s existence, and more than 40 per cent of them fail absolutely. In another study, Computer World found that only 6.4 per cent of high budget IT projects succeeded in their own terms.

So one reason that large-scale IT projects fail is because they are incredibly hard, public or private. However, there are unique things about government projects that make the chances of success even lower. …



A blog named Refreshing News has a post on berry good cancer fighting fruits.

For disease prevention and health maintenance, berries of all colors have “emerged as champions.” Research has focused mainly on cancer prevention and treatment. Studies show that the anticancer effects of berries are partially mediated through their abilities to counteract, reduce, and also repair damage resulting from oxidative stress and inflammation. Berries may also have many other positive effects, such as boosting detoxifying enzymes. …



NY Post article on the bullet from the sun we dodged a couple of years ago.

Two years ago, we were all going about our daily business, blissfully unaware that our planet almost plunged into global catastrophe.

A recent revelation by NASA explains how on July 23, 2012, Earth had a near miss with a solar flare, or coronal mass ejection (CME), from the most powerful storm on the sun in over 150 years, but nobody decided to mention it.

Err, what? Well, that’s a sobering bit of news.

“If it had hit, we would still be picking up the pieces,” says Daniel Baker of the University of Colorado.

We managed to just avoid the event through lucky timing as the sun’s aim narrowly turned away from Earth. Had it occurred a week earlier, when it was pointing at us, the result could have been frighteningly different. …



The New Scientist, apropos of Kevin Williamson’s article on the importance of property, says if you want to preserve forests give them to people who will value them.

The best way to protect rainforests is to keep people out, right? Absolutely not. The best way to keep the trees, and prevent the carbon in them from entering the atmosphere, is by letting people into the forests: local people with the legal right to control what happens there.

Given the chance, most communities protect rather than plunder their forests, says a new study by the World Resources Institute and Rights and Resources Initiative, both in WashingtonDC. The forests provide food, water, shelter, medicines and much else.

The report, Securing Rights, Combating Climate Change collates many existing studies. It concludes that forest communities only have legal control over one-eighth of the world’s forests. The rest is mostly controlled by governments or leased for logging or mining, often in defiance of community claims.

But community-owned forests are often the best-protected. In the Amazon rainforest, deforestation rates in community-owned areas are far lower than outside. …



Victor Davis Hanson reminds us of Gen. George Patton’s summer of 1944.

Nearly 70 years ago, on Aug. 1, 1944, Lieutenant General George S. Patton took command of the American Third Army in France. For the next 30 days they rolled straight toward the German border.

Patton almost did not get a chance at his summer of glory. After brilliant service in North Africa and Sicily, fellow officers — and his German enemies — considered him the most gifted American field general of his generation. …


… When Patton’s Third Army finally became operational seven weeks after D-Day, it was supposed to play only a secondary role — guarding the southern flank of the armies of General Bradley and British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery while securing the Atlantic ports.

Despite having the longest route to the German border, Patton headed east. The Third Army took off in a type of American blitzkrieg not seen since Union General William Tecumseh Sherman’s rapid marches through Georgia and the Carolinas during the Civil War.

Throughout August 1944, Patton won back over the press. He was foul-mouthed, loud, and uncouth, and he led from the front in flamboyant style with a polished helmet and ivory-handled pistols.

In fact, his theatrics masked a deeply learned and analytical military mind. Patton sought to avoid casualties by encircling German armies. In innovative fashion, he partnered with American tactical air forces to cover his flanks as his armored columns raced around static German formations.

Naturally rambunctious American GIs fought best, Patton insisted, when “rolling” forward, especially in summertime. Only then, for a brief moment, might the clear skies facilitate overwhelming American air support. In August his soldiers could camp outside, while his speeding tanks still had dry roads.

In just 30 days, Patton finished his sweep across France and neared Germany. The Third Army had exhausted its fuel supplies and ground to a halt near the border in early September. …



Andrew Malcolm with late night humor.

Fallon: A British firm is developing a new veggie — Brussel-Kale. It’s a combination of Brussels sprouts and kale. They got the idea from a child’s nightmare.

Conan: Amazon has introduced its own smartphone. You can tell it’s from Amazon because after you hang up with someone, the Amazon phone suggests other people you may want to call.

July 24, 2014

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

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

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

… But we do not have any property.

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

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

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



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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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



Bret Stephens reviews the Putin record.

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

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

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

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



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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

July 23, 2014

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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




Michael Barone has more on “tranquility.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

July 22, 2014

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

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

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

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

… Love people, use things.

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

Maybe Switzerland would take him, too.



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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

July 21, 2014

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 20, 2014

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

Second: “looks like”? “May be”?

Go out on a limb there, Barry.

Words fail. Truly.

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

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



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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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



Ron Christie writes an open letter to the attorney general.

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

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

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

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

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



Andrew Malcolm has late night humor.

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

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

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

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

July 17, 2014

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Ricochet has Tales From a Bomb Shelter.

I really thought I knew.

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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



Mark Steyn writes on the challenges of diversity.

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

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

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



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

Nineteen terrifying words from the Omaha World-Herald:

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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



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

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