June 15, 2017 – THERESA MAY – BLUNDER WOMAN

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While we’ve been watching the Comey circus, important things were happening – to wit – the disaster of an election in Great Britain. We have some comments from some of our favorites from years ago; Theodore Dalrymple and Tunku Varadarajan. Dalrymple is the nom de plume of Anthony Daniels who was a doctor in the British prison system and is now retired. He writes in City Journal

Theresa May has proved an apt pupil of the David Cameron school of political incompetence. Lacking principle, she is not even good at being unprincipled: a Machiavellian, it turns out, minus the cunning.

It did not help that she had the charisma of a carrot and the sparkle of a spade. As she presented herself to the public, no one would have wanted her as a dinner guest, except under the deepest social obligation. Technically, she won the election, in the sense that she received more votes than anyone else, but few voted for her with enthusiasm rather than from fear of the alternative. Her disastrous campaign included repeated genuflections in the direction of social democracy. Even after her defeat, moral if not quite literal, she burbled about a society in which no one was left behind—never mind that it would entail a society in which no one would be out in front, that is to say, a society resting in the stagnant pool of its own mediocrity. …

… Corbyn and his party’s solutions to the country’s problems were supposedly to be paid for by higher taxes on the richest 5 percent of the population. This proposal overlooked the fact that the top 1 percent of earners already pay almost three times as much in income tax as the bottom 50 percent combined, and also the fact that wealth is dynamic rather than static, resembling more closely the bloom of a grape than a cake to be sliced. Taxes on capital (in other words, state expropriation) were Corbyn’s obvious next step, with capital flight the equally obvious consequence.

None of this worried the young, who had as yet no stake in property, only what are sometimes called ideals. The Labour Party offered them and others the beguiling vision of living perpetually at the expense of others—Frédéric Bastiat’s definition of the state. The Laffer curve meant nothing to them; punishing the prosperous was more important and gratifying than understanding how to maximize tax receipts.

The election could take Britain back more than 50 years.

  

 

Mr. Varadarajan used to write for the WSJ. This item came from Politico.

At the time of writing, the Conservatives are forecast to win 318 out of the 650 seats in the House of Commons, humiliatingly fewer than the 400+ that had been on Theresa May’s mind when she called her Oliver Twist election (with apologies to Dickens) earlier this year. 

Please sir, can I have some more, she had said, even as she sat fairly pretty on 331 seats. She had no real need to call this election, but she did, wagering on a win that would enhance her majority in parliament, crush the Labour opposition, and let the negotiators in Brussels know that they were dealing with a prime minister who had the mother of all mandates to exact from Europe the most favorable exit terms.

Even as the results come in, it’s possible to see who the winners of this remarkable election are, and who the losers. …

… Losers Bracket 

Theresa May

Her victory speech at her Maidenhead constituency was quavering, uncertain and inarticulate, words that might well describe the manner in which May has governed as prime minister. Disparaged as the Last Woman Standing — a way of saying that she got the job because no one else wanted it after the Brexit referendum, or was untainted enough to have it — May flubbed her way through a campaign that was so poor that it left Labour, under a leader who was a liability in his own right, with unexpected hope of pulling off an election upset. The true problem of May’s election call was that few in Britain had an appetite for it. Yes, she said that she needed a fresh and vigorous mandate to strengthen her hand in Brexit negotiations, but many voters saw her decision to go to the polls as one born of hubris and greed. It will take a miracle for her to retain the PM’s job. Which means that she won’t. She had 330 days in office, which seem about as many as she deserved. …

  

 

Francis Turner at Liberty.Me described Theresa May as “Blunder Woman” and said the Tories were suggesting May was the reincarnation of Lady Thatcher, but was in fact their version of Hillary; ”only without the sleaze and pathological lying.” 

… What I think was worst about the Tory campaign is that they wrapped the campaign around Mrs May and then she hid away from the electorate and the media. She didn’t do TV debates, she didn’t do interviews, she didn’t do hustings. In fact pretty much all she did was show up in various places to make speeches in front of vetted loyalists. Even worse it all sounds a little like the failed campaign of Mrs Clinton last year only without the sleaze and pathological lying. Perhaps worse, thanks to a pretty miserable manifesto, she and her team then spent half the campaign rowing back key elements of it and generally denying that they were doing so. This did not exactly inspire anyone to believe the spin that Mrs May was a tough leader, a good negotiator or anything similar. All in all if you are going to run a campaign that suggests that Mrs May is the reincarnation of the Iron Lady Thatcher  then it would help your narrative if your candidate can actually stand up and face the media and the public and smite the naysayers. …

  

 

Michael Walsh of Pajamas Media has more discouragement.

… As Great Britain dies, mostly thanks to the deliberate suicide of the Labour Party, it’s the Tories who are going to suffer. What England needed in the weak Cameron’s wake was a decisive leader who would reverse the effects (insofar as possible) of Labour’s gambit to boost its electorate via immigration, and to start a serious crackdown on the hordes of foreign Muslims who are already fundamentally changing the nature of the British state. Unable to stand up to bogus charges of “racism,” the Tories capitulated in principle, and got two attacks in London and the massacre in Manchester in return.

No wonder they lost. Spinelessness is not an attractive character trait in anyone, much less a putative leader. What Mrs. May just discovered — and what we all should learn — is that the days of managing cultural decline via the administrative and the police state are over. At this point, it’s either fight back, defend your patrimony, or die.

Americans made that choice in November, and yet the pushback from the DeepState and the Democrats remains ferocious. Absent the return of St. George, it’s hard to see how the UK comes out of this alive.

 

 

According to Walter Russell Mead of American Interest, there is one welcome victor because now May must align with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in Northern Ireland.

… The biggest winner may end up being… Israel!

Anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism in various combinations have been a potent force in British politics among both Tories and Labour since WW2. The non-Thatcherite Right and the Corbynite Left don’t have much in common, but dislike for Israel and for America’s support for it are strong at both ends of the British political spectrum.

One of the few reservoirs of strong pro-Israel feeling in the UK lies in Northern Ireland, the homeland of the Scots-Irish, who are the core of Jacksonian politics in the United States. The DUP is the most “Jacksonian” (that is to say rightwing, nationalist-populist) political force in the UK, and many of Ulster’s Protestants are as sympathetic to Israel as their U.S. cousins. Travelers in Northern Ireland will sometimes see Palestinian flags in Catholic neighborhoods and the Star of David banner in Protestant ones.

Last night’s election turned those Ulster Protestants into kingmakers; …

  

 

Spectator, UK has an inside look at how the Tories will reprogram Theresa.

Had Theresa May won the election with the landslide she expected, she’d have fired several of the cabinet with her trademark brutality. They knew who they were. And last Monday, three of them took the opportunity to tell the Prime Minister where she had gone wrong. In the first meeting of the political cabinet since she blew her party’s majority, Philip Hammond asked why there had been no economic message in the campaign. Andrea Leadsom said that while May had repeatedly claimed the election was all about Brexit, she had never said what Brexit was actually for. The most pointed contribution, though, came from Sajid Javid, who lambasted the high-handed way that May’s team had run No. 10.

However, this was ritual humiliation, not a mutiny. The Tories have decided to keep Theresa May who, in turn, has agreed to the departure of her two chiefs of staff, Fiona Hill and Nick Timothy. She knows, as her cabinet knows, that she has just committed the greatest unforced error in modern political history. In normal circumstances, she would be gone. But the Conservative party is in shock, petrified of another election and fearful that Jeremy Corbyn could become prime minister. Instead of deposing May straight away, they are going to try to reprogram her: to make her a different kind of politician. …

 

 

June 4, 2017 – CLIMATE

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Some of our favorites comment on the withdrawal from the Paris Accord. Richard Epstein posted a few days before Trump’s decision. 
The Trump administration is currently facing a major decision—whether to withdraw the United States from the Paris Accords on climate change. The huge multi-national agreement was finalized in the closing weeks of the Obama administration, just days before Trump’s surprise victory in the presidential election. The key commitment made by the United States under the accords is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the next decade by about a quarter of their 2005 rate, with further reductions to come thereafter. But during his campaign, Donald Trump promised to pull out of the accords, and, at the recent meeting of the G-7, was the lone holdout against a ringing endorsement of the agreement.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been insisting that the United States stay the course, but it appears as if Trump is inclined to honor his campaign promise to pull out of the accords, a position in line with that of Scott Pruitt, the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency.
The President’s instincts are spot on here. He should withdraw the United States from the accords and be prepared to stoutly defend his decision on both political and scientific grounds. Ironically, the best reasons for getting out of the accords are the evident weaknesses in the reasons that a wide range of businesses and environmental groups offer for staying in. …
 
 
Craig Pirrong celebrates.
The wailing, gnashing of teeth, and rending of garments that has followed Trump’s widely expected decision to withdraw the US from the Paris Climate Accord is truly amazing to witness. It is virtue signaling taken to a new extreme. Indeed, since so many people want to signal simultaneously, each apparently feels obliged to outdo the other in hysterics in order to attract the attention their precious egos crave. Hence the apocalyptic paroxysms of rage that started the moment Trump spoke.Truth be told, even if one believes the predictions of standard climate models, and even if one believes there will be compliance with the commitments of the Accord (which is slightly less likely than my becoming Pope), it would have a trivial impact on global temperatures: on the order of .2 degrees. The impact of the US withdrawal alone, given its declining CO2 emissions relatively (especially compared to China and India) and even absolutely (something the pious Europeans have not been able to manage despite their moribund economy and costly—and insane–commitment to renewables), means that Trump’s action by itself will have an immeasurable effect on climate in any time frame.

So despite all of the screeching that Trump has doomed—doomed I say!—life on earth, in reality the accord is not a practical agreement, but a ritual. And like all rituals, its primary purpose is to provide an opportunity to display obeisance to a creed, theology, doctrine, or dogma.

Which explains the overwrought reaction: …

 
 
 
 
Roger Simon likes getting rid of one of obama’s “three authoritarianisms.” 
Sometimes — maybe almost always — the world seems to run on Freudian projection. One of the salient recent examples is Barack Obama’s supporters — and Obama himself, literally and by implication — calling Donald Trump “authoritarian.”But in non-projected reality, during his administration, Obama is the one who imposed what we might deem – in appropriately Maoist parlance – the “Three Authoritarianisms.” They were the Paris climate accord, the Iran deal, and US intelligence agencies being used to surveil American citizens.

All three of these “authoritarianisms” were entirely ex-Constitutional. …

… Even a cursory look at history reveals that totalitarianism does not always come with the obvious iron fist of a Comrade Stalin.  Sometimes it arrives in a subtler manner, as it did in the Obama administration when the then president’s amanuensis/lackey Ben Rhodes was so naive or arrogant (or both) as to brag to a New York Times writer how he duped young and uneducated reporters into parroting what the administration wanted them to say about the Iran deal.  The KGB couldn’t have done it better.

In the cases of Paris and Iran, it’s clear the (totalitarian) decision to avoid Congress was deliberate.  But now Trump has put a crimp in the former by pulling out of the Paris climate ( global warming) accord. The international chorus of hissy fits was so instantaneous and predictable — no more eminent scientist than actor Mark Ruffalo has declared “Trump will have the death of whole nations on his hands” — one must ask the obligatory question: Was it ever really about climate or was it, in the immortal words of  H. L. Mencken, “about the money“? …

 
 
 
 
David Harsanyi says the Dems have lost on climate change.
… Cuomo claims he “is committed to meeting the standards set forth in the Paris Accord regardless of Washington’s irresponsible actions.” Yet as governor, he’s blocked natural gas pipelines and banned fracking, which has proven to be one of the most effective ways to mitigate carbon emissions. U.S. energy-related carbon emissions have fallen almost 14 percent since they peaked in 2007 according to the OECD – this, without any fabricated carbon market schemes. The driving reason is the shift to natural gas. Why do liberals hate science? Why do they condemn our grandchildren to a fiery end?
 
Fact is, Obama—as was his wont—tried to shift American policy with his pen rather than by building consensus (which was also an assault on proper norms of American governance, but the “Trump is destroying the Constitution!” crowd is conveniently flexible on this issue.) It’s not a feasible or lasting way to govern, unless the system collapses. It is also transparently ideological.

This, I suspect, is one major reason climate change isn’t really a salient politic issue. No amount of hysteria is going to reverse this dynamic. Because, in the end, Malthusianism is no better than denialism – it is denialism, in fact. It is a belief that ignores history, human nature, and most importantly tradeoffs. Lots of people seem to understand this, either in stark political terms or intuitively. Sure, they say the things expected of them, but their actions betray a trust in human adaptability and technology more than in guesstimates. Many of them have lived through the eco-scaremongering of the 70s and 80s, and yet, they now see innovation spreading in a cleaner world where poverty has dramatically fallen and, by almost every quantifiable measure, human existence is improving.

 
 
 
Scott Adams wants a global warming betting exchange.
… There is social pressure to say you side with the majority of climate scientists. To do otherwise would make many people feel like ignoramuses. So they craft their personalities around a belief in climate change doom because they are people who respect science. It fits their identity preference.Until you ask them to invest their money.

Then people bet against it.

Here I’m not talking about every person. I’m talking about a tendency for some members of a group to be frictionless-only members. As soon as you give them friction – such as a financial risk – some (not all) climate alarmists might become climate skeptics. 

That’s just a hypothesis. 

Another hypothesis is that markets are short-sighted. But how much short-term benefit does the entire economy get from leaving the Paris Accords? I haven’t seen the argument for it helping directly in the next quarter or two, except in terms of optimism for the long-term.

And yet another hypothesis is that the people who have extra money to invest have a different view of climate risks than people who don’t have money. And that could be because the investor class is either smarter or dumber on this topic, on average, than non-investors. 

All of this makes me wonder why there isn’t a more robust betting market for climate change predictions. …

 
 
 
Another example of pseudo-science and government gone awry is the campaign against dietary fat. It turned out to be wrong. Worse it led people to adopt diets that have started an epidemic of obesity. A summary comes from the Tonic Blog
Let’s say you want to lose some weight. Which of these foods would you choose: A skim-milk latte, or the same drink with whole milk? A low-cal breakfast bar or steak and eggs? A salad tossed in light dressing or the same salad doused with buttermilk ranch? If you’re like most Americans, you either aren’t sure how to answer, or you’re very sure—but very wrong. And it’s not your fault. It’s the fault, experts say, of decades of flawed or misleading nutrition advice—advice that was never based on solid science. 

The US Department of Agriculture, along with the agency that is now called Health and Human Services, first released a set of national dietary guidelines back in 1980. That 20-page booklet trained its focus primarily on three health villains: fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol. 

Recently, research has come out strongly in support of dietary fat and cholesterol as benign, rather than harmful, additions to person’s diet. Saturated fat seems poised for a similar pardon. “The science that these guidelines were based on was wrong,” Robert Lustig, a neuro-endocrinologist at the University of California, San Francisco, told Tonic. In particular, the idea that cutting fat from a person’s diet would offer some health benefit was never backed by hard evidence, Lustig said. 

Just this week, some of Lustig’s colleagues at UCSF released an incendiary report revealing that in the 1960s, sugar industry lobbyists funded research that linked heart disease to fat and cholesterol while downplaying evidence that sugar was the real killer.

Nina Teicholz, a science journalist and author of the The Big Fat Surprise, said a lot of the early anti-fat push came from the American Heart Association (AHA), which based its anti-fat stance on the fact that fat is roughly twice as calorie-dense as protein and carbohydrates. 

“They had no clinical data to show that a low-fat diet alone would help with obesity or heart disease,” Teicholz told Tonic. But because fat was high in calories, they adopted this anti-fat position, and the government followed their lead. Surely the 1960s research rigged by the Sugar Association, which was published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, added to our collective fat fears. …

 

 

May 30, 2017 – LEFT POLICIES = RUIN

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Writing in City Journal, John Tierney provides a good example of how the Left ruins the lives of ordinary people. He writes about the refusal of New York City to allow Wal-Marts. 

If budget-cutters in Washington decided to eliminate food-stamp benefits to New Yorkers, the city’s politicians would be denouncing the cruelty of the “Republican war on the poor.” Yet Mayor Bill De Blasio and the city council are already inflicting the same sort of pain on low-income New Yorkers by denying them access to one of the nation’s most effective anti-poverty programs: Walmart.

When he was mayor, Michael Bloomberg supported Walmart’s efforts to open a store in New York, but the company faced unremitting resistance from unions and elected officials, and it gave up the fight once de Blasio moved into GracieMansion. “I have been adamant that I don’t think Walmart—the company, the stores—belong in New York City,” de Blasio said.

Walmart’s benefits are obvious to shoppers and to economists like Jason Furman, who served in the Clinton administration and was chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Obama. In a paper, “Walmart: A Progressive Success Story,” Furman cited estimates that Walmart, by driving down prices, saved the typical American family more than $2,300 annually. That was about the same amount that a family on food stamps then received from the federal government.

How could any progressive with a conscience oppose an organization that confers such benefits? How could de Blasio and the city council effectively take money out of the pockets of the poorest families in New York? Because—though they would deny it—they care a lot more about pleasing powerful labor interests, especially the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), which helped lead the long fight to keep Walmart out of the five boroughs. …

 

 

 

More on the Left’s war on ordinary people comes from Hot Air’s report on the types of restaurants that are failing in San Francisco as a result of the higher minimum wage.

… The Washington Examiner takes a look at a new study by the HarvardBusinessSchool this week which specifically digs into the restaurant business in San Francisco, where they have been jacking up their minimum wage like a golden escalator. The results pretty much speak for themselves.

San Francisco’s higher minimum wage is causing an increasing number of restaurants to go out of business even before it is fully phased in, a new study by the HarvardBusinessSchool found.

The closings were concentrated among struggling, lower-rated restaurants. The higher minimum also caused fewer new restaurants to open, it found.

“We provide suggestive evidence that higher minimum wage increases overall exit rates among restaurants, where a $1 increase in the minimum wage leads to approximately a 4 to 10 percent increase in the likelihood of exit,” report Dara Lee and Michael Luca, authors of “Survival of the Fittest: The Impact of the Minimum Wage on Firm Exit.” The study used as a case study San Francisco, which has an estimated 6,000 restaurants in the Bay Area and is ratcheting up its minimum wage. Restaurants are one of the largest employers of minimum wage workers. …

 

More on the subject from American Interest.

… More interesting, though, are the study’s findings about which restaurants are forced to leave by the higher wage floors. The authors compared rates of departure of restaurants across different Yelp ratings, and found that the policy hit low and mid-quality restaurants much harder than top-tier restaurants. ”Our point estimates suggest that a $1 increase in the minimum wage leads to an approximate 14 percent increase in the likelihood of exit for the median 3.5-star restaurant but the impact falls to zero for five-star restaurants.” …

… this study puts the appeal of superficially progressive measures like the minimum wage hike among the wealthy into sharp relief: It will help clear out the restaurant scene of establishments they don’t want to go to while taking jobs away from people they don’t know.

 

 

American Interest has more on California’s war on the working poor. this time using traffic fines. For example, $490 for stop light violations

Pressed to come up with the money to stave off its public employee pension time bomb, the state of California is jacking up the cost of traffic tickets. Reuters reports:

California legislators have raised fines for traffic infractions to some of the highest in the United States to generate revenue, and the poor are bearing an unfair burden, losing cars and jobs because they cannot pay them, civil rights activists said on Friday.

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area said in a new report that the $490 fine for a red light ticket in California was three times the national average. The cost was even higher if motorists wanted to attend traffic school in lieu of a conviction or were late paying.

This is a variation of what we call the “blue civil war”—the way the tightening fiscal vise around state and local governments end up pitting Democratic constituencies against one another. In this case, poor and minority Californians, who tend to need to drive further to work, are paying the brunt of the increased traffic fines—which are going to cover the retirement hole for unionized public employees. …

 

 

Zimbabwe shows another way governments ruin lives. AP reports on farmers there cheated by the state.

Farmer Simon Kahari recently sold tobacco worth more than $6,000 at an auction in Zimbabwe, a small fortune reflecting the golden leaf’s resurgence in this southern African country. Yet because of Zimbabwe’s dire economic problems he ended up sleeping in an auction house toilet that night, hungry and wondering if and when he would be able to access his earnings.

“I don’t have any money for food or anything,” Kahari said. “I came here expecting to be paid, so now I will have to borrow.”

Many of Zimbabwe’s tobacco farmers share the same plight during the ongoing selling season of the crop, Zimbabwe’s second biggest earner after gold. While exported tobacco rakes in hundreds of millions of dollars, small-time farmers feel left out of the lucrative cycle.

A cash shortage that underlines the country’s deepening economic woes has left farmers who travel long distances to auctions unpaid, stranded and desperate.

Farmers like Kahari are not paid in cash because of the currency shortage. But they need the money because much of Zimbabwe, especially rural areas where there is little infrastructure, is a cash-based society.

Instead, their earnings are deposited into accounts that they must open at bank branches at the auction houses. Then the farmers must stick around for weeks, hoping for the daily withdrawal limit of $100 but often getting no more than $50.

Meanwhile, tobacco sales have jumped 30 percent from last year, earning $300 million so far, according to the country’s Tobacco Industry Marketing Board. …

 

 

Now for the pièce de résistance of today’s post on how the left makes everything worse, we have a story from Reuters on water so filthy and oily in Venezuela’s oil ports that the tankers filling up there have to be cleaned before the rest of the world’s ports will let them enter.

In the scorching heat of the Caribbean Sea, workers in scuba suits scrub crude oil by hand from the hull of the Caspian Galaxy, a tanker so filthy it can’t set sail in international waters.

The vessel is among many that are constantly contaminated at two major export terminals where they load crude from Venezuela’s state-run oil company, PDVSA. The water here has an oily sheen from leaks in the rusty pipelines under the surface.

That means the tankers have to be cleaned before traveling to many foreign ports, which won’t admit crude-stained ships for fear of environmental damage to their harbors, port facilities or other vessels.

The laborious hand-cleaning operation is one of many causes of chronic delays for dozens of tankers that deliver Venezuela’s principle export to customers worldwide, according to three executives of the state-run firm, eight employees of maritime firms that contract with PDVSA and Thomson Reuters vessel-tracking data. …

… At oil export terminals around the world – where crude leaks like those in Venezuela are relatively rare – an oil-stained tanker would normally be taken out of the water and cleaned with industrial equipment in a dry dock.

But Venezuela has just one small dry dock and lacks the cash or the time to send its soiled tankers there for proper cleaning, according to the PDVSA executives, ship captains and two workers from tanker cleaning companies.

So workers on a small fishing boat clean the giant tanker with thousands of scrub-brush strokes. The work – which involves scouring ships above and below the water line – can take up to ten days per vessel, a worker involved in the cleaning said.

In a scene witnessed by Reuters in April, workers wearing scuba suits baked on the deck of a small boat as they reached out with brushes to scrub the Caspian Galaxy, a tanker leased for one trip by a PDVSA customer.

The workers labored just offshore from Amuay beach, near a tourist hub and PDVSA’s largest refinery. The crews here have washed so many vessels in recent months that they have dubbed their operation “the boatwash”. …

 

 

May 24, 2017 – VILE AND VIOLENT DEMS

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The coarsening of our political life has become breathtaking. Noah Rothman writes on the potty mouth democrats. Pickerhead might run for office as a Dem. Mrs. Pickerhead pointed out the language requirement is filled.

If you can’t be persuasive, be interesting. If you’re neither persuasive nor interesting, try to be funny. And if all of that fails, just be provocative; at least your audience will remember you. For Democrats, all else has failed. They’ve giving up on being compelling, coherent, or even just entertaining. In a desperate, spastic flail to capture your attention, Democrats have settled on a tactic: shock. …

… A New York Magazine profile of obvious 2020 hopeful Kirsten Gillibrand featured the esteemed gentlewoman from New York unleashing cascade of profanity upon her interlocutor. Her interview included “one ‘f***,’ two ‘f***ings,’ one ‘bulls***,’” and a variety of other lesser but equally crude expletives, according to Politico’s Alex Caton. At a public event, while sitting across from several former speechwriters for Barack Obama, California Senator Kamala Harris (another likely 2020 candidate) castigated Representative Raul Labrador for claiming that Americans do not die for want of health insurance. “What the f*** is that?” she remarked. Her audience roared and ate it up.

Republicans “don’t give a s*** about people,” barked newly elected Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez …

… It’s not just the Democratic Party’s political professionals who are rebranding themselves provocateurs to meet the measure of the populist moment. The liberal activist class is gearing up to make their case to the public by harassing lawmakers and scaring voters to death. Politico reported on Tuesday that Democratic protesters are preparing to lay down in the streets, ship the ashes of the dead to GOP lawmakers who voted to repeal ObamaCare, and to stage mock funerals for the unwitting constituents of Republican congressmen and women. “We can’t win based on the merit of our ideas,” confessed the proprietor of a liberal super PAC, “but rather on the way in which we deliver that message.” Some might call that an admission against interest. …

… During the 2016 primaries, Trump-skeptical conservatives fretted over the possibility that, were the populist real-estate mogul from Manhattan to win the GOP nomination, much less the presidency, Americans would become inured to his loutish persona. In the process, Trump would de-stigmatize rudeness and profanity, generate a more ill-mannered civic society, and accelerate the general coarsening of the culture. They were right. They just didn’t know that it would be the Democrats, not the GOP, who would first rush to follow in Donald Trump’s footsteps.

 

 

 

John Hinderaker says the craziest Dems are the California ones.

The Democratic Party is far gone in hate, but who do you suppose are the most lunatic Dems of all? The California Democrats are obvious candidates and, sure enough, their state convention yesterday concluded with a chant: “Fuck Donald Trump!” led by California Democratic Party chairman John Burton.

AP reporter Jonathan Cooper records the moment of infamy:

Outgoing Dem chair John Burton: “all together now: fuck Donald Trump.” While crowd holds up two middle fingers. pic.twitter.com/mDvgkhY7uY

— Jonathan J. Cooper (@jjcooper) May 20, 2017

There is a lot more at Gateway Pundit, and various videos are circulating. What I want to point out is the Associated Press’s restrained response to this outbreak of Democratic Party insanity. The AP headlines: “California Democrats take aim at Trump, GOP Congress.” I guess that’s one way of putting it. …

 

 

 

Even the Sacramento Bee, one of the house organs of the CA Dems, is disgusted. Steve Hayward posts in Powerline.

One of the very best analyses of the group dynamic of the Left came from Tom Bethell and Joe Sobran years ago, when they referred to the Left as “The Hive.” Like bees or ants, the Left simply goes into action in a coordinated and instinctual fashion, without need to meet and plan. Naturally the mainstream media is a chief nest of The Hive, and it buzzes constantly on behalf of liberalism.

Hence California’s Bee newspapers—the Sacramento Bee and the Fresno Bee (both long time McClatchy properties)—are appropriately named nodes of conventional liberalism. You could rightly think of them as the Bee Hive. Normally you’d never pay any attention to their house editorials. But the Fresno Bee editorial page over the weekend took note of the spectacle of the recent California Democratic Party convention and found it was even too much for them:

Which of the “D” words would you use to characterize the actions of California Democrats at their state convention in Sacramento over the weekend? Disgraceful? Deplorable Dysfunctional?

Sadly, there’s no wrong answer here. …

 

 

 

Federalist OpEd on the growing violence of the left.

Something is wrong with the American Left. The recent spate of violent protests on college campuses has been well-documented, but the violence and intolerance championed by left-wing student activists is beginning to creep off campus and into mainstream public life.

The reason for this is straightforward enough: although progressives pride themselves on their putative tolerance and diversity, the imperatives of leftist politics are fundamentally illiberal. Justice imposed through power is the philosophical foundation of the political left, and when earnest progressives become convinced the only avenue to power is violence, their tolerance quickly falls by the wayside. Consider a few recent events, none of which involved college protesters but all of which were marked by threats of violence. 

Ahead of a town hall meeting this week in Virginia’s fifth congressional district, Republican Rep. Tom Garrett received a series of disturbing threats—not just against him but also his wife and family, even his dog. One message said bluntly, “This is how we’re going to kill your wife.”

As a result, the town hall event was heavily guarded, with uniformed and plain-clothes security lining the walls and scattered throughout the 300-seat room.

Earlier this month, Jennifer Carnahan, the new chairwoman of the Minnesota Republican Party, received a torrent of racist hate mail and at least one threat of physical violence that forced her from her home for a weekend. …

… It’s not just angry mobs at town halls. On Wednesday, an editor at the Huffington Post called on his fellow leftists to stalk Republicans: “They should be hounded by protesters everywhere, especially in public—in restaurants, in shopping centers, in their districts and yes, on the public property outside their homes and apartments, in Washington and back in their homes states.”

Last week, senior Newsweek writer Kurt Eichenwald—who, let’s be honest, seems a little off—said he wants every Republican who voted for the American Health Care Act to have a family member come down with a serious illness, lose their insurance, and die. For good measure, he added that he also wants them “to be tortured.” …

April 30, 2017 – CLIMATE CRAZIES

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David Harsanyi writes on Bill Nye, fake scientist.

Bill Nye has some detestable ideas about humanity. This shouldn’t surprise anyone. Many environmental doomsdayers share his totalitarian impulses (Nye has toyed with the idea of criminalizing speech he dislikes) and soft spot for eugenics.

In his Netflix series, “Bill Nye Saves the World,” the former children’s television host supplies viewers with various trendy notions to adorn his ideological positions with the sheen of science. In the final episode, Nye and his guests contemplate a thorny “scientific” question: How the state can stop people from having “extra children.”

Nye: So, should we have policies that penalize people for having extra kids in the developed world?
Travis Rieder: I do think that we should at least consider it.
Nye: Well, ‘at least consider it’ is like ‘Do it.’
Rieder: One of the things that we could do that’s kind of least policy-ish is we could encourage our culture and our norms to change, right?

All of this was pretty familiar to me, and not only because the panel sounded like a ChiCom planning meeting. The Nye segment, it turns out, was just a repetition of a 2016 NPR article on overpopulation featuring Rieder that I’d once written about. …

 

 

 

Bret Stephens has left the WSJ and joined the NY Times. The last time that was done it was David Brooks. And boy did he go native! He used to write good stuff and we used to put it in Pickings. Now, he has become NY Times unreadable. We will hope the same thing does not happen to Stephens whose unrelenting dislike and dismissal of President Trump was said to lead to the change. Apparently the Journal wishes to cover Trump with less disdain than their initial coverage displayed. Bret Stephens’ first column morphed from the certainties of the Hillary campaign to the certainties of the climate scolds.

… “Mook and his ‘Moneyball’ approach to politics rankled the old order of political operatives and consultants because it made some of their work obsolete,” Allen and Parnes write about the campaign’s final days. “The memo that one Hillary adviser had sent months earlier warning that they should add three or four points to Trump’s poll position was a distant memory.”

There’s a lesson here. We live in a world in which data convey authority. But authority has a way of descending to certitude, and certitude begets hubris. From Robert McNamara to Lehman Brothers to Stronger Together, cautionary tales abound.

We ought to know this by now, but we don’t. Instead, we respond to the inherent uncertainties of data by adding more data without revisiting our assumptions, creating an impression of certainty that can be lulling, misleading and often dangerous. Ask Clinton.

With me so far? Good. Let’s turn to climate change.

Last October, the PewResearchCenterpublished a survey on the politics of climate change. Among its findings: Just 36 percent of Americans care “a great deal” about the subject. Despite 30 years of efforts by scientists, politicians and activists to raise the alarm, nearly two-thirds of Americans are either indifferent to or only somewhat bothered by the prospect of planetary calamity.

Why? The science is settled. The threat is clear. Isn’t this one instance, at least, where 100 percent of the truth resides on one side of the argument? 

Well, not entirely. As Andrew Revkin wrote last year about his storied career as an environmental reporter at The Times, “I saw a widening gap between what scientists had been learning about global warming and what advocates were claiming as they pushed ever harder to pass climate legislation.” The science was generally scrupulous. The boosters who claimed its authority weren’t. …

 

 

The first Stephens column has created a sh-tstorm at the Times. NeoNeocon posts.

… Which brings us to an article Bret Stephens wrote in his new venue, the NY Times. It was really a rather modest suggestion that people listen to both sides of the issue—not so much on AGW (which he himself seems to believe is true) as on whether we know enough to accurately predict the future of AGW and/or to fix the problems it may cause.

The Twitter storm this caused has been virulent. But if AGW (and intervention to halt or slow its effects) is your religion, then someone like Stephens becomes the AGW devil. Then this sort of response seems perfectly reasonable (if crass):

“You’re a s–thead. a crybaby lil f–kin weenie. a massive twat too,” tweeted Libby Watson, staff writer at Gizmodo.

“I’m gonna lose my mind,” seethed Eve Peyser, politics writer at Vice.

“The ideas ppl like @BretStephensNYT espouse are violently hateful & should not be given a platform by @NYTimes,” she said.

Not only has Stephens been excoriated, but that last sentiment—that he shouldn’t be at the Times—has drawn enough support to be expressed in a petition, that now has about 27,000 supporters, asking that he be fired. …

… Adriana Heguy, a genomics scientist and professor of pathology at NYU, urged her colleagues to scrap their subscriptions, as well.

“Composing my letter to the editor today and canceling @nytimes,” she tweeted. “‘Balance’ means a VALID alternative opinion, not pseudoscience. I’m so sad.”

 

 

And Ed Driscoll spotted this at ‘fake news’ Rolling Stone.

… Jesse Berney, Rolling Stone: “literally go f*** yourself, new york times. go, eat, dog, d*cks.” (Note: This is from someone at a magazine proven to have published a spectacularly false story about a gang rape at the University of Virginia. — Ed. …

 

 

April 14, 2017 – CAUTION

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While the country is filled with high fives from the right and the left for Trump’s attack on Syria, some of our favorites are suggesting notes of caution. Here’s Craig Pirrong, The Streetwise Professor.

President Trump ordered a cruise missile strike on a Syrian air base that was allegedly the launching point of a sarin attack on a town in the Idlib  Governate. My initial take is like Tim Newman’s: although the inhumanity in Syria beggars description, getting involved there is foolish and will not end well.

The Syrian conflict is terrible, but Syria makes the snake pit in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom look hospitable. …

… To put it slightly differently. Good intentions mean nothing. Results and consequences do. I am at a loss to think of any policy with results and consequences that accord with good intentions. Indeed, it almost inevitable that any major military intervention would not save Syrian lives but would cost American ones.

Truth be told, given the devastation wreaked on children, women, and men in Syria by bombs, shells, small arms and even throat-slashing blades, chemical weapons do not represent a quantum shift in the horribleness of the Syrian war. Dead is dead, and periodic use of chemical weapons does not materially affect the amount of dying that is going on. Assad–and the Islamists he is fighting–have killed and maimed far more innocent civilians with conventional weapons than with chemical ones.  The use of chemical weapons does not represent a fundamental shift in the nature of the war, which was already a total war waged without restraint against civilians by all sides (would that there were only two sides in Syria). …

 

 

And the Professor followed with another post.

The Syria story has many threads. I’ll address a few of them here.

First, to follow on Ex-Regulator’s comment: Trump’s initial public justification for the strike–the humanitarian impulse stirred by pictures of dying children–is deeply troubling. Sentimentality is a poor basis for policy. In particular, it has no limiting principle. If you take a tragic view of humanity–if you view mankind as fallen and flawed–you know that there is a virtually unending supply of sad, heartbreaking, stories. So how does a president choose which appeal to answer? And how do people know which appeals he will answer? Truth is, we have no idea. The line will be arbitrary, which leads to unpredictable, inconsistent policy. …

… Occam’s Razor would say that Trump’s attack completely undercuts the narrative that he is Putin’s bitch. But Occam’s Razor is an alien concept in the fever swamps of the left. The certifiably insane (Louise Mensch) and the hyper partisan but supposedly sane (Lawrence O’Donnell, Chris Matthews) certain have never shaved with it. They are claiming that this proves Trump is Putin’s bitch! The “reasoning”? He is doing it because the most likely interpretation is that it shows that Trump isn’t Putin’s bitch, so that means that he is! Or something.

In other words, this lot interprets everything that Trump does as evidence of his collusion with the Russians. This means that the hypothesis that he is in collusion with Putin is unfalsifiable, and hence is junk reasoning. It should therefore be rejected, as should anything that those who espouse this theory say.

Lastly, the attack is a complete embarrassment to the Obama administration, which preened and bragged that it had rid the Assad regime of chemical weapons. …

 

 

 

A more hopeful note comes from Scott Adams, of the Dilbert Blog.

1. President Trump just solved for the allegation that he is Putin’s puppet. He doesn’t look like Putin’s puppet today. And that was Trump’s biggest problem, which made it America’s problem too. No one wants a president who is under a cloud of suspicion about Russian influence.

2. President Trump solved (partly) the allegation that he is incompetent. You can hate this military action, but even Trump’s critics will call it measured and rational. Like it or not, President Trump’s credibility is likely to rise because of this, if not his popularity. Successful military action does that for presidents.

3. President Trump just set the table for his conversations with China about North Korea. Does China doubt Trump will take care of the problem in China’s own backyard if they don’t take care of it themselves? That negotiation just got easier.

4. Iran might be feeling a bit more flexible when it’s time to talk about their nuclear program. …

 

 

 

And from Andrew Malcolm who liked the missile strike.

President Donald Trump’s sudden missile strike against a Syrian airfield in retaliation for a gas attack on civilians will not change one thing about that sad land’s bloody civil war.

It will, however, alter the strategic calculus in many places within but also far beyond the troubled Middle East. Politically, the missiles also likely blasted any attempted allegations that Trump is a Putin patsy. Watch upcoming job approval polls for the popular verdict.

The 58 $1 million Tomahawk missiles (one fell into the sea) took out Syrian air force planes, reinforced hangars, fuel storage tanks and ammunition dumps. The intended message to Bashar Assad was, you can no longer use chemical weapons with impunity.

As columnist Charles Krauthammer aptly put it, following eight years of relative apathy and inaction after worse war crimes, the message from the new American president was not that there’s a new sheriff in town, but that there IS a sheriff in town. …

April 5, 2017 – PUTIN

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Hillsdale College’s Imprimis has a great issue this month on “how to think about Putin.” It is a transcript of a talk by Christopher Caldwell at the College’s Leadership Seminar held in Phoenix two months ago. 

… Let me stress at the outset that this is not going to be a talk about what to think about Putin, which is something you are all capable of making up your minds on, but rather how to think about him. And on this, there is one basic truth to remember, although it is often forgotten. Our globalist leaders may have deprecated sovereignty since the end of the Cold War, but that does not mean it has ceased for an instant to be the primary subject of politics. … 

While Caldwell doesn’t address this directly, his efforts contain a realization of the problems of geography that have dogged Russia throughout its history. To wit, this is a country which is situated on the Great Northern European Plain which stretches from the Atlantic to the Ural Mountains and which has provided the country with no natural barriers that could constitute a defensive position. 

… if we were to use traditional measures for understanding leaders, which involve the defense of borders and national flourishing, Putin would count as the pre-eminent statesman of our time. On the world stage, who can vie with him? Only perhaps Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey.

When Putin took power in the winter of 1999-2000, his country was defenseless. It was bankrupt. It was being carved up by its new kleptocratic elites, in collusion with its old imperial rivals, the Americans. Putin changed that. In the first decade of this century, he did what Kemal Atatürk had done in Turkey in the 1920s. Out of a crumbling empire, he rescued a nation-state, and gave it coherence and purpose. He disciplined his country’s plutocrats. He restored its military strength. And he refused, with ever blunter rhetoric, to accept for Russia a subservient role in an American-run world system drawn up by foreign politicians and business leaders. His voters credit him with having saved his country. …

 

Wikipedia lists 156 wars that have involved Russia since the fledgling KievianState began to take shape in 830. That means every seven and a half years during the history of Russia there has been some type of armed conflict; mostly with immediate neighbors. There were 21 wars with Turkey or Byzantium, ten with Sweden, seventeen with Poland, and so on. Is it any wonder Russians value a strong central state? 

Our political and philosophical forbearers had different concerns because they inhabited more secure lands with effective barriers against invasion. Great Britain was safe enough to have given much more thought to controlling a strong central state. So the Magna Carta, placing limits on the power of the rulers was created in England. It is impossible to imagine such a document making an appearance in Russia which faced existential threats every decade.

… Putin did not come out of nowhere. Russian people not only tolerate him, they revere him. You can get a better idea of why he has ruled for 17 years if you remember that, within a few years of Communism’s fall, average life expectancy in Russia had fallen below that of Bangladesh. That is an ignominy that falls on Boris Yeltsin. Yeltsin’s reckless opportunism made him an indispensable foe of Communism in the late 1980s. But it made him an inadequate founding father for a modern state. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, whose writings about Communism give him some claim to be considered the greatest man of the twentieth century, believed the post-Communist leaders had made the country even worse. In the year 2000 Solzhenitsyn wrote: “As a result of the Yeltsin era, all the fundamental sectors of our political, economic, cultural, and moral life have been destroyed or looted. Will we continue looting and destroying Russia until nothing is left?” That was the year Putin came to power. He was the answer to Solzhenitsyn’s question.

There are two things Putin did that cemented the loyalty of Solzhenitsyn and other Russians—he restrained the billionaires who were looting the country, and he restored Russia’s standing abroad. Let us take them in turn. …

 

 

 

When last we posted, we closed with an article on the great tragedy that took place in 100 years ago in Russian when the fledgling democratic government was overthrown by Lenin and his bloodthirsty leftists. The circumstances of Lenin arriving in St’ Petersburg one month after the czar abdicated are the subject of a book reviewed by The WSJ

Of all the weapons deployed in World War I, among the most lethal may have been a train that left Zurich on April 9, 1917. Thirty-two of its passengers—a ragbag of revolutionaries and their family members—were on their way to Russia. At their head was Vladimir Lenin. The czar had just been overthrown, and a new democracy was struggling to be born. But the change in government was less of a revolution than Lenin had in mind. He had been in exile for years, most recently in Switzerland. To put things right, he had to return home.

Switzerland and Russia are not exactly neighbors. Much of the territory lying between them was controlled by states with which Russia was at war, states that wouldn’t be expected to offer free passage to someone who was not only an enemy national but also an individual dedicated to the destruction of their own social systems.

Lenin, however, had cut a deal with the kaiser’s Germany. In “Lenin on the Train,” Catherine Merridale, a distinguished historian of Russia and the Soviet Union, describes Lenin’s journey, the reasons it came about and the events it set in motion. Berlin had realized, she tells us, that supporting foreign insurgents could help destabilize Germany’s enemies from within. With democratic Russia set on continuing the war Lenin opposed, it seemed sensible to transport the veteran revolutionary like (in Winston Churchill’s words) a “plague bacillus” in a “sealed truck” and release him to infect his fragile homeland. And so on that April day began a ride across Europe that led, within months, to catastrophe and, over time, to the loss of thousands, then hundreds of thousands, then millions, of lives. …

 

 

 

Rounding out today’s post on Russian subjects, Craig Pirrong reacts to the Susan Rice news of the past few days.

Some 200 theaters around the world are screening 1984 to warn about the dark descending night of fascism under Donald Trump. The timing of this could not be more ironic, given that all the news of late makes it abundantly clear that the former administration, not the current one, deserves to be known as Big Brother.

In particular, after a steady trickle of news about surveillance and unmasking of Trump campaign and transition personnel by the US intelligence community, yesterday the story broke that ex-National Security Advisor and noted f-bomber* Susan Rice–yes, that paragon of honesty, Madam Benghazi Talking Points–had requested the unmasking of numerous Trump personnel picked up in reports of surveillance on foreigners (incidentally, of course! Trust them on this!).

Last month, Ms. Rice played dumb (not a stretch!) by claiming that she had no idea what Devin Nunes was on about. Yesterday, Susie F was unavailable for comment, although one of the Obama creatures working for CNN (but I repeat myself) tweeted: “Just in: ‘The idea that Ambassador Rice improperly sought the identities of Americans is false.’ – person close to Rice tells me.”

Note the presence of the weasel modifier “improperly.” Not a categorical denial of unmasking. I therefore consider this an admission that unmasking did occur. …

 

Nice group of cartoons today.

March 23, 2017

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Pickerhead spends a lot of time in Naples, FL. So it was interesting to read that Smithsonian Magazine says it is the happiest city in the country. Perhaps it is happy because it is the butt of many jokes. It is said that all the old people in Florida live in Sarasota - and their parents live in Naples. True enough. And when a car is heard starting while you are walking through a parking lot in Naples, it is wise to locate that vehicle before continuing because you never know when some seasoned citizen might attempt some hitherto unforeseeable driving or parking maneuver.

 

Even though many residents of Naples are quite old, they are keeping up with the youthful trend of tattoos. The most popular is to have their arms inked with their names and addresses. The same set has come up with a new line at the local saloons – “Hi there. Do I come here often?”

 

Switzerland may be the best country in the world (or so says U.S. News & World Report), but there is plenty of happiness to be found here in the USA—and particularly in Florida, according to the latest data from Gallup-Healthways.  For the second year in a row, Naples and the nearby communities of Immokalee and Marco Island have ranked first in their ”American well-being” Index, A. Pawlowski reports for Today. 

The 2016 Community Well-Being Index is based on Gallup interviews with more than 350,000 people. Researchers analyzed these conversations to measure how residents feel about their physical, emotional, financial, community and social health. 

Naples performed well in all categories. The city “had the country’s highest number of residents thriving in community well-being, highest rates of healthy eating, lowest rates of daily stress, and lowest lifetimes diagnoses of depression,” the authors of the report write. …

… And through it all, the people of Naples were persistently mellow. The city is home to the least-stressed residents of the country—and this despite the persistent antics of the Florida man.

  

 

Speaking of Florida Man, here’s the NY Times piece.

Dangling into the sea like America’s last-ditch lifeline, the state of Florida beckons. Hustlers and fugitives, million-dollar hucksters and harebrained thieves, Armani-wearing drug traffickers and hapless dope dealers all congregate, scheme and revel in the SunshineState. It’s easy to get in, get out or get lost.

For decades, this cast of characters provided a diffuse, luckless counternarrative to the salt-and-sun-kissed Florida that tourists spy from their beach towels. But recently there arrived a digital-era prototype, @_FloridaMan, a composite of Florida’s nuttiness unspooled, tweet by tweet, to the world at large. With pithy headlines and links to real news stories, @_FloridaMan offers up the “real-life stories of the world’s worst super hero,” as his Twitter bio proclaims.

Florida Man Tries to Convince Woman to Buy, Cook, Eat Iguanas Duct-Taped to His Bike http://t.co/8lOo4ML3AY

— Florida Man (@_FloridaMan) March 20, 2015  … 

… “There is always an extra twist of weirdness at the end of the Florida story,” Mr. Hiaasen said. “Weird stories happen everywhere, but they usually come to a logical conclusion. There is always one more shoe that drops in Florida.”

And there is so much more of it in Florida, he added. “It’s not just shooting fish in a barrel,” Mr. Hiaasen said, “but shooting mutated, deranged, slow-moving fish.” 

He cited the car thief who had been caught by the police in the parking lot of the Miccosukee Tribe’s casino on the edge of the Everglades. The thief had the bad sense to try to escape by plunging into a pond behind the casino. 

“As soon as he hits the water, he gets eaten by an alligator,” Mr. Hiaasen said. “This is the way things must be here.”

Mr. Hiaasen, chagrined at the authorities, added: “They kill the alligator. They should have given him a Crime Stoppers award. Does this happen in Arkansas? I don’t know.” …

 

 

Another sometime Naples resident, the Florida Panther, was featured in an article in The Atlantic. This piece was hard to format, so to read it all, please follow the hyperlink.

On a clear evening this past June, in rural Collier County, Florida, an endangered panther crossed a street and was hit by a man driving home. The driver, making out a tawny, crumpled form, called a hotline. The job of retrieving the animal fell to Mark Lotz, a panther biologist with the state Fish and Wildlife Commission. Lotz called me to see if I wanted to come.

I had flown into Fort Lauderdale at the beginning of the week, renting a car and heading west across the state through what remains of primordial wetlands. Tall metal fences flanked the road, like a dull, gray hermetic seal meant to keep human traffic in and wildlife out. The fences are just one of many measures to protect fewer than 180 Florida panthers alive today, all of them in the state’s southern tip. …

 

Fifteen miles Northeast of Naples is the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. A visitor filmed a panther there last year. Click on this link.

 

 

We do have something serious today because Wednesday a week ago marked the 100th anniversary of the abdication of Czar Nicholas. The Reds did not gain power immediately. First there was a fledgling democracy led by Alexander Kerensky, who died at his home in New York City in 1970. Before 1917 was over, Lenin overthrew the provisional government setting into motion the bloodiest century in history as perhaps hundreds of millions went to early graves. Max Boot writes in Commentary.

… Can you imagine what would have happened if Kerensky had been able to stay in power? The mind boggles to think how many tens of millions of people might have died in their beds rather than suffering a gruesome and premature end. There certainly would not have been any Stalinist terror or any mass famine in Ukraine. There may not have been any World War II, for a democratic Russia would not have connived in Hitler’s rise as the Soviet Union did. The Soviets not only helped Germany to rebuild its military in the 1920s but in 1939 Stalin agreed to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact that set the stage for the invasion of Poland, with Soviet forces coming from the East as the Nazis invaded from the West. In a broader sense, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact made possible World War II, a conflict that inflicted unimaginable suffering on the Soviet Union, but ultimately left Moscow in command of Eastern Europe and eager to expand its domain even farther. Mao Zedong’s revolution in China probably would not have succeeded if not for Russian assistance, which was forthcoming from Stalin but would not have come from a democratic prime minister.

Simply to have avoided the rule of Stalin and Mao would have spared tens of millions from an early grave. From the American perspective, it would have avoided the costly and dispiriting wars in North Korea and Vietnam and the near-miss of a nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Just think of how different the world would look today if Russia were a vibrant democracy. There is no inherent reason why Russia should be at odds with the West; indeed if Russia were democratic, it would be part of the West. Imagine the European Union extending from London to Moscow, and a Europe wholly free.

That, of course, is an impossible dream, and there is no guarantee that even a democratic Russia would have avoided all conflicts with its neighbors; other democracies, ours included, have certainly acted in a belligerent fashion. (Just ask the Mexicans!) But there is little doubt that the whole history of the last hundred years would have been changed immeasurably, and for the better, if Russia had had only one revolution, rather than two, in 1917.

March 8, 2017 – IRREPLACABLE

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Whatever you may think of President Trump, it is an unalloyed pleasure to have someone in the Oval Office who does not hide his thoughts. We can hope his tweets never get staff sanitized. Think back to his passive aggressive predecessor who tried to disguise his animus towards Israel until the very end of his term. And likewise his dislike of Great Britain, which while never spoken, was obvious if you were willing to look beyond the smiling face. The latter displayed his faculty lounge ignorance of the historic contributions of the British anti-slavery movement led by William Wilberforce at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th centuries. For thousands of years of human history slavery was ubiquitous worldwide. And yet in 40 years, history’s proverbial blink of an eye, it was halted in the large part of the world touched by British power.

 

Today’s post examines the unprecedented attacks on the country’s president; including calls for his assassination. Donald Trump looks like he has the courage and cojones to withstand this withering fire from the Left.  Since Pickings trashed Trump early on in the campaign it is startling to realize he has become the irreplaceable president because no other politician in recent memory could withstand this unrestrained, and at times, unhinged aggression. Victor Davis Hanson provides an overview of the assault on Trump.  

… Oddly, in early January, Senator Charles Schumer had essentially warned Trump that he would pay for his criticism of career intelligence officials. In an astounding shot across his bow, which was followed up by an onslaught in February, Schumer said: “Let me tell you, you take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you. . . . So even for a practical, supposedly hard-nosed businessman, he’s being really dumb to do this.”

Schumer was evidently not disturbed about rogue intelligence agencies conspiring to destroy a shared political enemy — the president of the United States. What surprised him was how naïve Trump was in not assessing the anti-constitutional forces arrayed against him.

Trump-Removal Chic

The elite efforts to emasculate the president have sometimes taken on an eerie turn. The publisher-editor of the German weekly magazine Zeit raised the topic on German television of killing Trump to end the “Trump catastrophe.” So did British Sunday Times columnist India Knight, who tweeted, “The assassination is taking such a long time.” A former Obama Pentagon official, Rosa Brooks, recently mused about theoretical ways to remove Trump, including a military coup, should other avenues such as impeachment or medically forced removal fail: “The fourth possibility is one that until recently I would have said was unthinkable in the United States of America: a military coup, or at least a refusal by military leaders to obey certain orders.” …

… Nor is the Trump family immune from constant attack. Daughter Ivanka Trump was recently cornered on an airline flight, while traveling with her three young children three days before Christmas, and bullied by a screaming activist passenger. Her private fashion business is the target of a national progressive-orchestrated boycott. Celebrities and writers have attacked Trump’s eleven-year-old son Barron as a sociopath-to-be or as a boy trapped in an autistic bubble. First Lady Melania Trump sued the Daily Mail after it trafficked in reports that she had once been a paid escort — a lie that was recently recirculated by a New York Times reporter. 

Trump advisers Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka are routinely smeared as anti-Semites and fascists. One Trump critic berated Gorka as a Nazi sympathizer for wearing a commemorative medal once awarded his father for his role in the resistance to the Communist takeover of Hungary. …

… Compared with Obama in 2009, at the same point in his young administration, Trump has issued about the same number of executive orders. For all his war on the press, Trump has so far not ordered wiretaps on any reporter on the grounds that he is a “criminal co-conspirator,” nor has he gone after the phone records of the Associated Press — Barack Obama’s Justice Department did both, to little notice in the media.

Trump’s edicts are mostly common-sense and non-controversial: green-lighting the Keystone and Dakota pipelines, freezing federal hiring, resuming work on a previously approved wall along the Mexican border, prohibiting retiring federal officials from lobbying activity for five years, and pruning away regulations. …

… Trump has had fewer Cabinet appointees bow out than did Barack Obama. Most believe that the vast majority of his selections are inspired. The nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch was a widely praised move. The defense secretary, retired general James Mattis has echoed Trump’s earlier calls for European NATO members to step up and meet their contracted obligations to the alliance.

Clearly in empirical terms, nothing that Trump in his first month in office has done seems to have justified calls for violence against his person or his removal from office. What then accounts for the unprecedented venom? …

 

 

For a good example of media bias, Matthew Continetti writes on the coverage of the opposition to Betsy DeVos. The fact that politicians against DeVos were bought and paid for by teacher’s unions is barely mentioned.

… The atrocious coverage of DeVos troubled education blogger Alexander Russo, who wrote an item for the Phi Delta Kappan lamenting the fact that established publications “have cherry-picked storylines that put DeVos in a negative light and written about DeVos’s ideas and efforts using fraught, charged language.” This development surprised Russo, because “right after the presidential election, mainstream journalism went through an intense period of self-reflection and decided—among many things—that reporters and editors should try to check their liberal biases at the door and do a better job of covering people who weren’t like them.” Clearly Russo was hallucinating when he wrote those words, because the only period of intense self-reflection journalists went through after the election is when they decided to be even more antagonistic and hysterical in their treatment of Donald Trump.

Even I, your humble Mediacracy columnist, am occasionally surprised at the one-sidedness of media coverage. On the day DeVos was confirmed, I clicked on a story in the Washington Post with the headline, “The DeVos vote is a bad case study for the power of campaign contributions.” The headline struck me as completely backward—if anything, the vote is a classic case study of the power of campaign contributions, since all of the senators opposing DeVos, including the two Republicans, are on the take from the unions. But, incredibly, Philip Bump’s article did not contain a single mention of the word “union,” and instead focused solely on DeVos’s contributions to Republican senators. I thought the omission absurd, an example of horrible journalism, and said so on Twitter.

“Dude,” replied a colleague. “It’s the Post.”

  

 

Washington Examiner with another example of fake news.

Reporters have done it again.

The latest media misfire on the Trump administration involves Ibtihaj Muhammad, a New Jersey native who made headlines last year when she became the first female Muslim-American to win an Olympic medal for the United States.

Muhammad, a lifelong American citizen, claimed in an interview last week that she was detained “just a few weeks ago” by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents. She said she was held for two hours without explanation.

Her remarks on Feb. 7 earned her an entire news cycle, as several journalists ran with reports suggesting, and alleging outright, that the American Olympian had been ensnared in the president’s executive order temporarily barring immigration from seven Middle Eastern countries. 

But Muhammad has since clarified crucial parts of her story, including the date on which she was detained. A Customs official with direct knowledge of the incident has also disputed much of how she characterized what happened. …

… The problem with this particular news cycle is that Muhammad was detained in 2016, weeks before Trump had even been sworn in as America’s 45th president. …

… Before we go, a few points bear further discussion, and none of them reflect well on Muhammad or the press.

First, it’s mind-boggling that no one in that room on Feb. 7 thought to ask her for the exact date on which she was detained. It’s a basic duty of journalism to get the who, what, where, when, why and how to every story. That Muhammad’s interviewers didn’t think to pursue the “when” is astounding.

Secondly, Muhammad isn’t blameless in all of this. A less-than-charitable person would suspect her of being intentionally vague and imprecise. She was asked a simple “yes or no” question about the president’s immigration order. Instead of giving a simple answer, she provided an anecdote involving the very misleading use of “just a few weeks ago.” …

  

 

WSJ OpEd says Eric Hoffer saw Trump coming almost 50 years ago. 

“Scratch an intellectual, and you find a would-be aristocrat who loathes the sight, the sound and the smell of common folk.” Those words might have been written last year, as an explanation for Donald Trump’s rise or a rejoinder to Hillary Clinton’s denunciation of “deplorables.”

In fact they were published in November 1970 and written by Eric Hoffer, the “longshoreman philosopher,” who was best known for his slender 1951 classic, “The True Believer: Thoughts on the nature of Mass Movements.” The 1970 essay, under the headline “Whose Country Is America?,” eerily anticipated not only the political events of 2016 but the tone and language of last year’s campaign and the anti-Trump hysteria since Election Day.

Hoffer started his analysis with “the conspicuousness of the young”—that is, the baby boomers. “They have become more flamboyant, more demanding, more violent, more knowledgeable and more experienced,” he wrote. “The general impression is that nowadays the young act like the spoiled children of the rich.”

He attributed those developments to the “ordeal of affluence,” which threatened social stability. Wealth without work “creates a climate of disintegrating values with its fallout of anarchy.” Among the poor this takes the form of street crime; among the affluent, of “insolence on the campus”—both “sick forms of adolescent self-assertion.” …

  

 

We opened today with Victor Davis Hanson and he will be the close as he writes on the laws of unintended consequences.

The classical idea of a divine Nemesis (“reckoning” or “downfall”) that brings unforeseen retribution for hubris (insolence and arrogance) was a recognition that there are certain laws of the universe that operated independently of human concerns.

Call Nemesis a goddess. But it was also simply an empirical observation about collective and predictable human behavior: Excess invites unexpected correction. 

Something like hubris incurring Nemesis is now following the frenzied progressive effort to nullify the Trump presidency.
 

Fake News

“Fake news” was a term the Left invented to describe the ancient practice of propaganda (updated in the Internet age to drive Web traffic). They applied it to the supposed Russian habit of planting international news stories to affect Western elections, and in particular Donald Trump’s campaign for the presidency and his tendencies to exaggerate and massage the truth. 

But once the term caught on in our faddish age, who were the more appropriate media fakers? Fake news now serves as a sort of linguistic canary to remind the public that it is customarily saturated with a lethal gas of media disinformation.

Thus “fake news” seemed a proper if belated summation and clarification of years of liberal bias in the media that were supposed to be our custodian of the truth.

Were NBC anchor Brian Williams’s fantasies fake news? Were Dan Rather’s “fake but accurate” Rathergate memos? How about the party line circulated in JournoList or the Washington and New York reporters who colluded to massage the news to favor the Clinton campaign, as revealed in the Podesta WikiLeaks trove? Was jailing a video maker part of an Obama-administration fake-news attempt to blame Benghazi deaths on a spontaneous riot? Was the Iran Deal’s “echo chamber,” about which Ben Rhodes later bragged, the epitome of fake news?

Thank the Left, because suddenly the term “fake news” is becoming a common description of the media’s effort to suggest that Trump once went to Moscow to frolic with prostitutes, that his lawyer met Russians in Prague, that he removed Martin Luther King’s bust from the Oval Office, that he was going to employ “100,000” guardsmen to enforce immigration law, or that he wished to invade Mexico.

The once liberal invention of the term “fake news” now mostly refers to media efforts by leftists to warp the Trump presidency; to progressive media celebrities who have been caught lying, colluding, or plagiarizing; and to the cohort of unapologetically left-wing journalists who, in the words of Obama White House operative Ben Rhodes, “know nothing” and thus are easily manipulated by their progressive political puppeteers. …

 

March 4, 2017 – GELERNTER

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For a weekend’s thought provoking post, we have Conor Friedersdorf’s Atlantic Monthly interview with David Gelernter. The interview breaks for five days while Gelernter provides 20 thoughts.

Last month, David Gelernter, the pioneering Yale University computer scientist, met with Donald Trump to discuss the possibility of joining the White House staff. An article about the meeting in The Washington Post was headlined, “David Gelernter, fiercely anti-intellectual computer scientist, is being eyed for Trump’s science adviser.”

It is hard to imagine a more misleading treatment. …

Friedersdorf: One of the few newspaper columns that has stuck with me for years is Charles Krauthammer’s meditation on Fermi’s Paradox and what he calls “the high probability that advanced civilizations destroy themselves.” This is a fear Baby Boomers associate with nuclear weapons. How do those products of  the World War II era compare to other advances in technology that stoke existential worries? …

Gelernter: Charles Krauthammer runs to pessimism, and I think he has this wrong—in fact backwards. The striking thing is that Stalin had the bomb and Mao had the bomb and neither ever used it. If both of those mass-murdering thug-tyrants were able to restrain themselves, it’s not too surprising that their successors did too. You worry that “advances in science and technology are always outpacing our ability or inclination to guard against them,” but it seems to me that this is exactly what hasn’t happened.

The U.S. and our allies have escaped nuclear, chemical, and bio attacks not because of the humane ideals of our enemies, but because we devote huge energy and effort to defense, and to our own mass-destruction weapons. Of course terrorists would love to murder huge numbers of westerners, and chemical weapons and perhaps some kinds of bio-weapons are easier to acquire and handle than nuclear weapons; and terrorists don’t have hostage states and populations like a Stalin or Mao. But we have to assume that the terrorists have been trying this sort of attack since at least October 2001.

What’s amazing isn’t that they nearly always fail but that occasionally, on a small but tragic scale, they succeed. If you think about it, they have men willing to die for the cause but so do we—every American infantryman, every front-line soldier of the U.S. and our allies has put his life on the line; and our police, FBI and their allies do it routinely, too.  We don’t call them suicide fighters, we call them brave, patriotic, big-hearted Americans—or British, French, Israelis—but that doesn’t change the facts.  

And our soldiers are about 1,000 years further along in technology, much better-trained and equipped, and fighting for their homes and families, and freedom, which are better causes than medieval tyranny, the annihilation of Jews and Christians, and the enslavement of women—not the most inspiring ideas to fight and die for. …

 

Here’s Gelernter’s 1st Thought;

Letting toxic partisanship heal.  Everyone knows that we live in politically superheated times; partisanship feels more bitter and more personal than it ever has in my lifetime.  

There are many reasons, but here is one: we all know that faith in the Judeo-Christian religions is dramatically weaker than it used to be. But human beings are religious animals, and most will find an alternative if the conventional choices are gone.  

The readiest replacement nowadays for lost traditional religion is political ideology. But a citizen with faith in a political position, instead of rational belief, is a potential disaster for democracy. A religious believer can rarely be argued out of his faith in any ordinary conversational give-and-take. His personality is more likely to be wrapped up with his religion than with any mere political program. When a person’s religion is attacked, he’s more likely to take it personally and dislike (or even hate) the attacker than he is in the case of mere political attacks or arguments. Thus, the collapse of traditional religion within important parts of the population is one cause of our increasingly poisoned politics. Yet it doesn’t have to be this way.

Turn back to the generation after the Second World War. The collapse of religion is well underway, but there is another alternate religion at hand: art. …

 

And the 4th;

It used to be that nearly all American children were reared as Christians or Jews. In the process they were given comprehensive ethical views, centering on the Ten Commandments and the “golden rule,” and God’s requirements as spelled out by the prophet Micah: “Only to do justice, and love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.”

As a result American were not paragons; but they had a place to start.  Today many or most children in the intellectual or left-wing part of the nation are no longer reared as Christians or Jews. What ethical laws are they taught? Many on the left say “none, and it doesn’t matter”—a recipe for one of the riskiest experiments in history.  

The left, and my colleagues in the intelligentsia, need to come to terms with this issue. Rear your children to be atheists or agnostics—fine. But turning them loose on the world with no concept of right and wrong is unacceptable. …

  

They’ve nothing to do with today’s topic, but some of the ‘toons are laugh out loud funny.