July 30, 2015

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The man who said “if you like your doctor, you can keep you doctor” has another lie in play; this time in the Iran agreements. Marc Thiessen, writing in WaPo, outlines the latest travesty. 

President Obama promised that his nuclear deal with Iran would not be “based on trust” but rather “unprecedented verification.” Now it turns out Obama’s verification regime is based on trust after all — trust in two secret side agreements negotiated exclusively between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that apparently no one (including the Obama administration) has seen.

Worse, Obama didn’t even reveal the existence of these secret side deals to Congress when he transmitted the nuclear accord to Capitol Hill. The agreements were uncovered, completely by chance, by two members of Congress — Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) — who were in Vienna meeting with the U.N.-related agency.

In an interview, Pompeo told me that he and Cotton were meeting with the deputy director of the IAEA and the agency’s two top Iran negotiators just days after the nuclear accord was announced, when they asked how the agency will carry out verification at the Iranian military complex at Parchin. IAEA officials told them, quite casually, that the details were all covered in agreements negotiated between the IAEA and the Iranian government. It was the first they had heard of the side deals.

Pompeo says they asked whether they could see those agreements. He says IAEA officials replied, “ ‘Oh no, of course not, no, you’re not going to get to see those.’ …



David Harsanyi says ordinary American citizens understand Iran a lot better than John Kerry.

At a Tehran mosque last week, the Ayatollah Khamenei—amid chants of “Death to America” and “Death to Israel”—explained to a crowd that his nation’s interests were “180 degrees” in opposition to the United States. “Even after this deal our policy toward the arrogant U.S. will not change,” he explained.

This vexed John Kerry, who claimed that he didn’t “know how to interpret” this kind of predictable antagonism from one of American’s longest-running adversaries.

What can it all possibly mean?

Perhaps the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic does not feel compelled to indulge in American fairytale endings? Khamenei knows there is almost no way sanctions will return, even if he cheats. He understands his nation will be poised to have nuclear weapons in a decade, at the latest. Few people, even advocates of the P5+1 deal, argue we can stop the mullahs in the long run. Best-case scenario, as Fred Kaplan contends in Slate, is that the Islamic regime will get bored of hating us and join the community of nations.

Speaking of wishful thinking, I suspect many Americans are less confused about Iran’s intentions than our gullible secretary of State, even if they support a deal for partisan reasons. Take a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll that tells us a couple of things—neither of those things what fans of the deal purpose. Americans, even if they don’t know much about foreign affairs, much less grasp the intricacies of this Iranian deal, intuitively understand the Islamic Republic better than Kerry. …




Now for a real treat, we have an interview of Camille Paglia by Salon editor David Daley. Long time readers may remember three or four years ago when Camille Paglia would pen a monthly piece for Salon. We never missed an opportunity to include items written by this original unconventional mind.

… Right from the start, when the Bill Cosby scandal surfaced, I knew it was not going to bode well for Hillary’s campaign, because young women today have a much lower threshold for tolerance of these matters. The horrible truth is that the feminist establishment in the U.S., led by Gloria Steinem, did in fact apply a double standard to Bill Clinton’s behavior because he was a Democrat. The Democratic president and administration supported abortion rights, and therefore it didn’t matter what his personal behavior was.

But we’re living in a different time right now, and young women have absolutely no memory of Bill Clinton. It’s like ancient history for them; there’s no reservoir of accumulated good will. And the actual facts of the matter are that Bill Clinton was a serial abuser of working-class women–he had exploited that power differential even in Arkansas.  And then in the case of Monica Lewinsky–I mean, the failure on the part of Gloria Steinem and company to protect her was an absolute disgrace in feminist history! …

… In most of these cases, like the Bill Clinton and Bill Cosby stories, there’s been a complete neglect of psychology. We’re in a period right now where nobody asks any questions about psychology.  No one has any feeling for human motivation.  No one talks about sexuality in terms of emotional needs and symbolism and the legacy of childhood. Sexuality has been politicized–“Don’t ask any questions!”  “No discussion!” “Gay is exactly equivalent to straight!” And thus in this period of psychological blindness or inertness, our art has become dull. There’s nothing interesting being written–in fiction or plays or movies. Everything is boring because of our failure to ask psychological questions.

So I say there is a big parallel between Bill Cosby and Bill Clinton–aside from their initials!  Young feminists need to understand that this abusive behavior by powerful men signifies their sense that female power is much bigger than they are!  These two people, Clinton and Cosby, are emotionally infantile–they’re engaged in a war with female power. It has something to do with their early sense of being smothered by female power–and this pathetic, abusive and criminal behavior is the result of their sense of inadequacy. …




In the second part of the interview with Camille Paglia, she discourses on the many news sources available today. First we have her rant on Jon Stewart of the Daily Show. Then the surprising news outlets she follows.

… I think Stewart’s show demonstrated the decline and vacuity of contemporary comedy. I cannot stand that smug, snarky, superior tone. I hated the fact that young people were getting their news through that filter of sophomoric snark.  Comedy, to me, is one of the major modern genres, and the big influences on my generation were Lenny Bruce and Mort Sahl. Then Joan Rivers had an enormous impact on me–she’s one of my major role models. It’s the old caustic, confrontational style of Jewish comedy. It was Jewish comedians who turned stand-up from the old gag-meister shtick of vaudeville into a biting analysis of current social issues, and they really pushed the envelope.  Lenny Bruce used stand-up to produce gasps and silence from the audience. And that’s my standard–a comedy of personal risk.  And by that standard, I’m sorry, but Jon Stewart is not a major figure. He’s certainly a highly successful T.V. personality, but I think he has debased political discourse.  I find nothing incisive in his work.  As for his influence, if he helped produce the hackneyed polarization of moral liberals versus evil conservatives, then he’s partly at fault for the political stalemate in the United States. …

… Historically, talk radio arose via Rush Limbaugh in the early 1990s precisely because of this stranglehold by liberal discourse. For heaven’s sake, I was a Democrat who had just voted for Jesse Jackson in the 1988 primary, but I had to fight like mad in the early 1990s to get my views heard. The resistance of liberals in the media to new ideas was enormous. Liberals think of themselves as very open-minded, but that’s simply not true!  Liberalism has sadly become a knee-jerk ideology, with people barricaded in their comfortable little cells. They think that their views are the only rational ones, and everyone else is not only evil but financed by the Koch brothers.  It’s so simplistic! …

… The first thing I always turn to is the Drudge Report, which I’ve done around the clock since the birth of that page. In fact, my column in Salon was the first to take the Drudge Report seriously as a major new force in the media. I loved it from the start!  Its tabloid format is great–so easy and accessible and such a pleasure to read.  I’m so happy that Matt Drudge has kept that classic design.  Silly people claim he’s stuck in the past, but that’s absurd.  Drudge is invoking the great populist formula of tabloids like the New York Post and the New York Daily News, which were pitched to working-class readers.  Andy Warhol, who came out of a working-class immigrant factory family in Pittsburgh, adored the tabloids and reproduced their front pages in big acrylic paintings. The tabloids were always the voice of the people.  I admire the mix on Drudge of all types of news stories, high and low. The reason that nobody has been able to imitate Drudge is because he’s an auteur, stamping the page with his own unique sensibility and instincts.  It must be exhausting, because he must constantly filter world news on a daily basis.  He’s simply an aggregator, not a news source, but he has an amazing sense of collage.  The page is fluid and always in motion, and Drudge is full of jokes and mischief. …


The cartoonists continue with Planned Parenthood.

July 29, 2015

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Time for a Trump day. The existence and persistence of his candidacy puts the current state of our political life in its proper context. It has become a cruel joke. Perhaps it takes a friendly foreigner, Rex Murphy of Canada’s National Post, to put things in perspective.

Mature Americans are appalled by what it means for their country, and how the rest of the world must be looking on — awed and horrified — at how deep American politics has sunk. But all those who deplore it, and all those sobbing in public, might want to ask how the Trump inflammation came to be. Why he is getting the response he is. Post columnist Graeme Hamilton gave some answers a few days ago. I’d like to add a few more. 

I agree Trump is ridiculous — but he is an illustration of a problem and not its cause. Trump is not the swamp: he is the creature emerging from it. For however ridiculous and appalling his candidacy may be, it is no worse and no more ridiculous and appalling than the whole pattern of American politics at this time. …

… Is he more manipulative than President “you can keep you doctor, you can keep you plan” Obama? Is he less venal or arrogant than Hillary “it’s my server and it’s my State Department” Clinton? …

… My own view on Trump is fairly plain — he is a boor and a hyper-egotist, a shallow and avaricious blowhard, whose candidacy can almost stand as a rebuke to the idea of a democracy. But it is not Trump who should bear the responsibility for his success. It is the practice of politics itself and the political class (which includes, more and more, the news media) that has for so long abandoned honest representation of ideas, facing difficult issues with real language, which has so professionalized campaigns and elections that the sound of a human voice saying something it actually means is so rare.

It is the toxic atmosphere of political correctness that suffocates so many voices that enables a Trump, when he rants with full stream-of-consciousness abandon, to be seen as a plain speaker, authentic and different.

How sad a world it is when what even those of us outside America see the campaign for what should be regarded as the sublime office of the presidency of the greatest democracy in the world brought down to a spectacle not much more dignified than the Housewives of  Beverly Hills, and of less class than the clammy gropings of The Bachelorette.



John Fund says Trump will be happy to be a spoiler.

… Now Trump is roiling political waters as a GOP candidate for president. He is set to speak on Saturday at Freedom Fest, a gathering of 2,000 free-market enthusiasts meeting in Las Vegas. Not everyone is happy with his presence. Brian Doherty of the libertarian magazine Reason says his “bona fides vis a vis freedom include loving (and practicing) eminent domain, hating free immigration, being pro-tariff and pro-war and believing Social Security and Medicare are secure and should be inviolate. (He has been good on the drug war in the past.)”

Several other attendees also worry that Trump is egging on the GOP establishment to treat him so badly that he will have an excuse to run against it again in 2016. “The base is mad at the GOP leadership in Congress, worried conservative issues are getting ignored in the campaign, and fed up with political correctness,” Floyd Brown, president of the conservative Western Center for Journalism, told me. “If he moved to a third-party candidacy, many of his followers would be there with him.”

That, of course, is what happened in 1992. Then another eccentric billionaire, Ross Perot, who like Trump had issues with the Bush family and the GOP establishment, stayed in the race as a self-financed third-party candidate and was included in the presidential debates. …


Roger Simon has Trump thoughts.

… Not only does he suck all the oxygen out of the room, he sucks it out of the galaxy.  He makes all the other candidates vanish. Only Walker and Bush are registering in the latest polls and they’re double-digits behind Donald.   Did you know John Kasich declared today?  (Who? What? Zzzz….) The real news of the day was Trump giving out Lindsey Graham’s personal cell phone number after Graham called him an idiot — or was it the other way around? With The Donald it doesn’t matter.  Hold on a moment and the opposite will happen.

What do I think of him now, at this very moment, typing this, subject to change as that is in the next thirty-eight seconds?  I say — bring it on!  Why not Donald?  We could do worse. Indeed, we have much worse. To say I’d prefer Donald to Madam Rodham doesn’t mean much (I’d prefer anyone in the phone book), but just imagining a Hillary-Trump head-to-head makes me giggle.  Has there ever been a spectacle like that in American politics?  Not during the television era.  My dream mano-a-mano (or should I say mana-a-mana?) would have been Hillary-Carly, but if I’m not going to get that, Hillary-Donald will more than suffice.  Indeed, it may prove to be the greatest reality show ever made and I wouldn’t bet against Donald winning. And I wouldn’t bet against him running as a third party candidate either should he not get the Republican nomination. …



Victor Davis Hanson sees similarities between Trump and current occupant.

.. But again, is Obama so different a spirit? He feels that his own winning charm and community-organizing skills can succeed with revolutionary leaders, in a way the political skills of a George W. Bush never could. Relations with Turkey hinged on a “special friendship” with Erdogan. Apparently, Obama felt that neo-Ottomanism, anti-Israel rhetoric, and increasing Islamization were mere proof of inevitable revolutionary turmoil, a good thing, but one that could be capitalized on only by someone like himself, who long ago was properly ideologically prepped. Ditto Obama’s mythography of the Cairo speech before an audience that, on the White House’s insistence, included members of the Muslim Brotherhood, or his outreach to Cuba and Iran (note his past silence about the 2009 green demonstrations in Iran). So if Obama has won over the world’s one-time pariahs, maybe Trump can try the same first-person methodologies to coax the more business-minded prime ministers to our side. The self-absorbed idea of Trump outfoxing a Chinese kleptocrat is similar to that of Obama hypnotizing an Iranian theocrat.

Donald Trump believes he can oversell America abroad in the manner of Chamber of Commerce boosterism; isn’t that the twin to Obama underselling the country in the fashion of a wrinkled-browed academic? Both are stern moralists: America is too often shorted, and so Trump is angry over the sins of omission. For Obama, past genocide, racism, and imperialism vie as sins of U.S. commission.

Would a Trump bragging tour be all that much different from an Obama apology tour? If, in politically incorrect style, it is implied that all immigrants are likely to be criminals, is that any sloppier or more politically motivated than the politically correct assumption that all are dreamers? Threatening to charge Mexico per illegal immigrant seems about as sensible as leaving the border wide open and nullifying existing immigration law.

There is no need to elect Donald Trump; we’ve already had six years of him.



Jennifer Rubin says serious candidates can use him to their advantage.

… The most sober-minded and mature of the likely debate participants — former Florida governor Jeb Bush, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and former Texas governor Rick Perry (if he makes the debate), Ohio Gov. John Kasich (if he makes the debate) and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (if he makes the debate) — have shown a willingness to call out Trump.

If Christie decides to do his “sit down and shut up” routine, it will not only be must-see TV but a chance for Christie to stand up to a bully rather than be labeled as one. Jeb Bush, taller than people imagine, and capable of showing some righteous anger might also take advantage of the moment to show that Trump’s no conservative (Trump has given generously to Democrats, supported government-operated universal healthcare and sounds like the AFL-CIO on trade) and thereby bolster his own conservative credentials. Perry has been the most cutting and most eloquent in indicting “Trumpism,” and in fact may be angling for a fight so as to show off his leadership chops. Rubio, who looks younger than he actually is and hasn’t shown he can throw a punch, likewise might have an opportunity to demonstrate grit and exude some presidential presence. And Kasich, who does not suffer fools gladly and is as likely to take on serious candidates as he is Trump, might well make a splash by invoking his conservative values (empathy, being one) and directly challenging Trump’s character. In short, Trump might actually provide a much-needed iconic moment for one or more candidates to break out of the pack. …



Putting the lie to his boasts, Yahoo Finance lists twelve Trump business failures.

Donald Trump catapulted himself into the spotlight with his gilded real estate ventures and vibrant personality. The latter is what has made his show “The Apprentice” such a huge success.

And over the years, he’s had an opinion or two about the business world.

“In the end, you’re measured not by how much you undertake but by what you finally accomplish,” Trump once said.

But like any successful business person, Trump has had his share of setbacks. Here, we present to you 12 Trump businesses that went belly up or no longer exist. …


News Max reports the gnomes at Bloomberg Billionaires Index put the lie to another Trump boast. 

The latest math on Donald Trump: $2.9 billion.

An analysis by the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, based in part on a 92-page personal financial disclosure form made public last week, revealed a portfolio dominated by skyscrapers and golf courses. The celebrity presidential candidate says he’s worth more than $10 billion. …


We’ll let Kevin Williamson have the last word in his piece titled “15 elephants and a clown.”

… That Trump and Perry are received roughly as equals on the national stage is absurd, but politics thrives on absurdity. Perry has, to put it plainly, the best record of any modern American governor. Trump has celebrity and a knack for getting out in front of a parade, in this case ghoulishly grandstanding upon the corpse of Kathryn Steinle, a telegenic young white woman who was murdered by Francisco Sanchez, a Mexican illegal who had been deported five times and who apparently used a gun belonging to a federal agent in the killing. Trump has not offered even the outline of a serious program for stanching the flow of illegal immigrants, but he makes authoritative grunting sounds in the general direction of the southern border, which apparently is sufficient for one in five Republican voters. While the border crisis is indeed a national emergency, Trump makes it less likely rather than more likely that the federal power will be roused to do its duty, a fact to which Trump’s camp apparently is indifferent. It has fallen to the newly professorial Perry to instruct these idiot children, while the other candidate from Texas, Senator Ted Cruz, has mainly engaged in a sad me-too appeal to the Trump element. The contrast is telling, and is a reminder that Senator Cruz, for all his many attractive qualities, is a tyro. …


… Donald Trump, who inherited a real-estate empire worth hundreds of millions of dollars from his father, has had every opportunity to involve himself in the consequential questions of his time. He has been a very public figure for decades, with a great deal of time, money, celebrity, business connections, and other resources to put in the service of something that matters. Seventy years in, and his curriculum vitae is remarkably light on public issues for a man who would be president. One would think that a life spent in public might inspire at least a smidgen of concern about the wide world. He might have had any sort of life he chose, and Trump chose a clown’s life. …


The cartoonists do a great job on the donald.


July 28, 2015

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Back in April, a Pickings post led with a WaPo article on the huge number of museums in the country. 10,000 more than the 11,000 Starbucks and 14,000 McDonalds combined – 35,000. The Smithsonian Magazine writes on seven of the museums that sit along famed US Route 66.

… With the road cutting through big cities and small towns alike, Route 66 helped small businesses thrive. Diners, motels, trading posts, gas stations, natural wonders and roadside attractions all became part of the uniquely American experience the road provided.

But the Federal Highway Act of 1956 proved to be the beginning of the end of Route 66’s heyday. In response to the growing car culture of America, the law allocated money for newer, faster, better roads—like Interstate 40. These roads allowed for the near-total circumvention of Route 66. As the Mother Road saw less traffic, the small businesses alongside it died out. On June 27, 1985, Route 66 was officially decommissioned, meaning the road was no longer part of the US highway system.

Today, though, Route 66 has seen a bit of revival, thanks to recognition of its history and cultural value. The National Parks Service offers grants for preservation of the road. Travelers who want to experience a taste of mid-century Americana are hitting the road again. Even foreign tourists are making the trip to get their kicks on Route 66. While certainly not the fastest or easiest way to drive from Chicago to Los Angles (or vice versa), it is the most scenic, and still ripe for discovery. 

So, buckle up—summer is road trip season and there is no better road to take than the one that so captivated the American imagination. Alongside the diners and natural wonders, Route 66 is a haven for off-the-wall collections and eclectic museums. Here are seven of the most fascinating: …



Five Thirty Eight  blog posts on the optimal speed of exercise.

There was a time when the optimal exercise speed was however fast you had to run to get away from a saber-tooth tiger. Even today, in much of the developing world, people exercise through activities such as farming and fetching water that are necessary for survival.

However, in the developed Western world, where exercise tends to be an extracurricular activity, there is apparently tremendous interest in just how fast you should move in order to improve your health. Consider, for example, the many posts on The New York Times’ Well blog on the topic (walking versus running, the “right dose of exercise,” “walk hard, walk easy”), all of which focus on the relative benefits of walking versus jogging versus running.

So is it better to walk? To walk fast? To run slow? To run fast? On its face, this question is poorly posed, since it says nothing about our goals or our constraints. Am I aiming to lose weight? To live longer? To win road races? Am I willing to exercise for three hours a day? Twenty minutes? Almost never? Clearly, these considerations matter when trying to determine the optimal speed. Here is how I would think about asking the question instead: What is the easiest way to reduce my chance of death? …



And Huffington Post says running improves health.

1. Better Knees
Think running wears out your knees? Think again. One recent study found that it may actually help prevent knee osteoarthritis, a condition that affects roughly 9.2 million adults; another discovered that road warriors were up to 18 percent less likely than walkers to develop the condition, in part because running may increase the thickness of knee cartilage.

2. Less Stress
When it comes to the mood-boosting effects of running, science suggests you can get more than just an endorphin high. According to a lab study in The Journal of Neuroscience, running may reduce anxiety by triggering neurons that mute your response to stress. …



Fulgurites are left behind when lightning hits sand. Amusing Planet has their story.

A single bolt of lightning can deliver 5 gigajoule of energy enough to power an average U.S. household for more than a month. When such a powerful lightning bolt strikes a sandy area like a beach or a dune, the sand particles can melt and fuse together in less than a second. Sand melts at about 1800 degrees Celsius, but the temperature in a bolt of lighting can reach 30,000 degrees, or more than five times the temperature on the surface of the sun. If conditions are right, the fused sand forms long hollow tubes called fulgurite. The term comes from the Latin word fulgur, which means “lightning”. Although lightning strikes earth at least a million times each day, only rarely does fulgurites form. …

July 27, 2015

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The president’s “dangerous rhetoric” gets a look from Victor Davis Hanson.

President Obama has a habit of asserting strategic nonsense with such certainty that it is at times embarrassing and frightening. Nowhere is that more evident than in his rhetoric about the Middle East.

Not long ago, Obama reassured the world that, despite evidence of the use of chemical weapons in Syria, “Chlorine itself is not listed as a chemical weapon.” What could he have meant by that? Obama apparently was referring to the focus on Sarin gas by the Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the UN watchdog agency that was supposed to monitor Obama’s Syria red line warnings against further gas attacks. To reassure the public that the United States would not consider chlorine gas a violation of its own red line about chemical weapons use in Syria—and, therefore, to assure the public that his administration would not intervene militarily in Syria—Obama said:  “Chlorine itself, historically, has not been listed as a chemical weapon.”

Nothing could be further from the truth. Chlorine was the father of poison gas, the first chemical agent used in World War I—and it was used to lethal effect by the Germans at the battle of Ypres in April 1915. Subsequently, it was mixed and upgraded with phosgene gas to make an even deadlier brew and employed frequently throughout the war—most infamously at the Battle of the Somme.

The president was clearly bothered that he had boxed himself into a rhetorical corner and might have had to order air strikes against the defiant Assad regime—lest he appear wavering in carrying out his earlier threats. One way out of that dilemma would be to deny that chorine constituted a serious weapon used to kill soldiers and civilians. Another would simply be to claim that he had never issued such a red line to Bashar al-Assad at all. That refuge is exactly what Obama fell back upon at press conference on September 4, 2013: “I didn’t set a red line. The world set a red line.” …

… Yanking all Americans out of Iraq in 2011 was solely a short-term political decision designed as a 2012 reelection talking point. The American departure had nothing to do with a disinterested assessment of the long-term security of the still shaky Iraqi consensual government. When Senator Obama damned the invasion of Iraq in 2003; when he claimed in 2004 that he had no policy differences with the Bush administration on Iraq; when he declared in 2007 that the surge would fail; when he said in 2008 as a presidential candidate that he wanted all U.S. troops brought home; when he opined as President in 2011 that the country was stable and self-reliant; when he assured the world in 2014 that it was not threatened by ISIS; and when in 2015 he sent troops back into an imploding Iraq—all of these decisions hinged on perceived public opinion, not empirical assessments of the state of Iraq itself. The near destruction of Iraq and the rise of ISIS were the logical dividends of a decade of politicized ambiguity. …



Heather Mac Donald on microaggression and macro crazy.

Early this year, the University of California’s president, Janet Napolitano, asked all deans and department chairs in the university’s ten campuses to undergo training in overcoming their “implicit biases” toward women and minorities. The department heads also needed training, according to the UC president, in how to avoid committing microaggressions, those acts of alleged racism that are invisible to the naked eye. A more insulting and mindless exercise would be hard to imagine. But Napolitano’s seminar possesses a larger significance: it demolishes any remaining hope that college administrators possess a firmer grip on reality than the narcissistic students over whom they preside.

The “Fostering Inclusive Excellence: Strategies and Tools for Department Chairs and Deans” seminar presumes that University of California faculty are so bigoted that they will refuse to hire the most qualified candidate for a professorship if that candidate happens to be female or an “underrepresented minority”—i.e., black or Hispanic. …

… The ultimate question raised by the seminar is: Are there any adults left on campus, at least in administrative offices? And the answer is: no. An adult administrator would realize that he is presiding over the most tolerant, well-meaning, and opportunity-filled community in human history. He would understand that the claim that females and minorities are the victims of discrimination on campuses is sheer fiction. He would know that teaching students to go around ferreting out imaginary slights does them a disservice.

Maybe that administrator is so cowardly that, while he knows these things, he is not willing to assert them in the face of student agitation for more victim infrastructure. Such cowardice is deeply unfortunate. But at least it holds out the possibility for some return to sanity at a later date. The most disturbing aspect of “Fostering Inclusive Excellence” is that it was initiated by the president’s office without outside provocation. Had Napolitano not come up with these antibias trainings, no one would have noticed their absence. Instead, she has sua sponte promulgated an initiative deeply ignorant about how seriously most professors—at least in the sciences—take their responsibilities to build up a faculty of accomplishment and research prowess. We have come to expect such ignorance from coddled, self-engrossed students. Now it turns out that those students may be the least of the university’s problems.



The Federalist says Uber gives freedom to women.

Mayor Bill de Blasio is waging a war against Uber, working overtime to pass legislation that would dramatically limit the ability of ride-sharing companies to operate in New York City. He justifies this crackdown as a way to “keep people safe,” but it in reality, de Blasio’s anti-free market Uber policy would do the exact opposite.

Uber is the best thing to happen to women since the invention of birth control. It allows us to leave when we want without relying on a man to get us home. To understand how empowering this notion is, de Blasio might consider walking in our red stilettos one Saturday night.

Of course, not every woman needs an app to escape a bad date, but Uber provides a safety net for those that do. With Uber, women don’t need a permission slip to leave the dinner table. We don’t need to stay for “one more drink,” and we certainly don’t need to deal with the anxiety of hailing for a cab that might never come. No. With Uber, we just click a button, and our car arrives. …



More defense of Uber from John Stossel.

Hillary Clinton gave a speech warning that the new “sharing economy” of businesses such as the rideshare company Uber is “raising hard questions about workplace protections.”

Democrats hate what labor unions hate, and a taxi drivers’ union hates Uber, too. Its NYC website proclaims, “Uber has the money. But we are the PEOPLE!”

The taxi cartels, which provide inferior service and are micromanaged by government, don’t like getting competition from efficient companies like Uber.

Clinton didn’t mention Uber by name, but we don’t have to wonder which company she meant. The New York Times reports that Clinton contacted Uber and told them her speech would threaten to “crack down” on companies that don’t treat independent contractors as full employees. Apparently, Democrats think something’s wrong if people are independent contractors.

But no driver is forced to work for Uber. People volunteer. They like the flexibility. They like getting more use out of their cars. It’s win-win-win. Drivers earn money, customers save money while gaining convenience and Uber makes money. Why does Clinton insist on interfering with that?

Clinton’s “social democrat” pal, New York’s Mayor Bill de Blasio, wants to crack down on Uber by limiting how many drivers they may hire. Uber cleverly responded with an app — a “de Blasio option” — that shows people how much longer they’d have to wait if de Blasio gets his way. …


The cartoonists are on to Planned Parenthood.

July 26, 2015

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Richard Epstein writes on the “disastrous Iran deal.”

… In his much-ballyhooed interview with Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, he stated: “Don’t judge me on whether this deal transforms Iran, ends Iran’s aggressive behavior toward some of its Arab neighbors or leads to détente between Shiites and Sunnis. Judge me on one thing: Does this deal prevent Iran from breaking out with a nuclear weapon for the next 10 years and is that a better outcome for America, Israel and our Arab allies than any other alternative on the table?”

In fact, we should judge President Obama and his treaty harshly on each of these points. By providing Iran with billions of dollars of immediate cash, this agreement will help Iran fund wars and terrorist attacks that could take thousands of lives. To offset this possibility, the President has indicated that he will try to bolster American assistance to the various countries that will be affected by Iranian aggression, but none of our allies can have much confidence in the leadership of a President who has made at best negligible progress in dealing with ISIS. His public vow to never put American ground forces in the Middle East turns out to be the only promise that he is determined to keep—for the benefit of our sworn enemies who have greater freedom of action given his iron clad guarantee. The objection to the President here is not that he has merely failed to curb Iranian mischief. It is that his clumsy deal will massively subsidize it.

Second, there is no more “snap back” here. Once the sanctions set out explicitly in the agreement are lifted from Iran, they won’t be reinstated any time soon. Gone are the days of anytime, anywhere inspections. In stark contrast, Articles 36 and 37 of the agreement outline a tortuous review process to reinstate any sanctions. First the Joint Commission must act, then the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, and then a nonbinding opinion by a three-member Advisory Board must be issued. If the matter is not resolved to mutual satisfaction after this process runs its course, any participant “could treat the unresolved issue as grounds to cease performing its commitments under this ICPOA.” …




Craig Pirrong posts on military discontent.

I have long been certain that there is seething discontent within the Pentagon, directed squarely at Obama. The past several days have made this abundantly clear.

The most brutal takedown was by retiring Army Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno. This certified warrior squarely blames Obama’s Iraq bugout for the rise of Isis. Further, he pointed out Iran’s malign role in the Middle East. He agreed that Iran, and the truly evil Qasem Soleimani in particular (who was un-sanctioned as a result of the Iran deal), were responsible for the bulk of American deaths in Iraq in 2007-2009.

Further, two generals (including the nominee to be Odierno’s replacement) and the Secretary of the Air Force gave testimony before the Senate which squarely undercuts Obama policy. Each identified Russia as the US’s primary threat: one referred to it as an “existential” threat. As if to emphasize that this was off-message, spokesnimrod Josh Earnest said that no one on Obama’s national security staff believes this. This is no doubt true. So much the worse for them. …




At least, what the president is doing to the country he also is doing to the Dem Party. Steve Hayward has the feel good story of the day.

As the left descends further into madness, and the demographics of Democratic presidential field embarrasses even the AARP, it is worth pondering that the weakness of the Democratic Party goes far down the political food chain. The Wall Street Journal takes note of this in a front-page story this morning:

“… After two presidential victories, Mr. Obama presides over a Democratic Party that has lost 13 seats in the U.S. Senate and 69 in the House during his tenure, a net loss unmatched by any modern U.S. president.

Democrats have also lost 11 governorships, four state attorneys general, 910 legislative seats, as well as the majorities in 30 state legislative chambers. In 23 states, Republicans control the governor’s office and the legislature; Democrats, only seven.

Such losses help shape the future: An ousted state lawmaker doesn’t run for Congress; a failed attorney general candidate loses a shot at the governor’s office. As a result, the flow of fresh political talent rising to statewide and national prominence in the years ahead won’t be as robust as Democrats hope. …”




Here’s the aformentioned article from the Wall Street Journal.

Democrat Chris Redfern was confident of his re-election chances, and with good reason.

Voters in his state House district had elected Democrats for decades, and he was Ohio’s Democratic Party chairman.

Yet on election day, Mr. Redfern lost to a tea-party Republican, a defeat that drove him from politics into a new line of work, running an inn and winery.

Mr. Redfern’s political exit came amid a string of midterm-election losses by Democrats in Ohio and nationwide that reflected a deeper problem: As the party seeks its next generation of candidates, the bench has thinned.

A tepid economy and President Barack Obama’s sinking approval ratings contributed to some of the Democratic losses last fall. The setbacks also revealed a withering of the campaign machinery built by Mr. Obama’s team more than seven years ago. While Democrats held the White House, Republicans have strengthened their hand in statehouses across the U.S.

Democrats maintain a significant electoral college advantage as shifting U.S. demographics tilt their way. This spring, a Pew Research Center analysis found that 48% of Americans either identify as Democrats or lean Democratic, compared with 39% who identify with Republicans or lean Republican.

But many Democrats worry that GOP success capturing state and local offices will erode that advantage before they have a chance to rebuild.

“If you don’t have a well-funded state party, if you don’t have state infrastructure, then you’re just whistling past the graveyard,” Mr. Redfern said. From his new perch in the hospitality industry, he described leading the state party as the “worst job in politics.” …



Sadly, the obama push to federalize and liberalize student loans has become an unintended burden on the young. The Atlantic writes on love and debt.

Chris Davis, a 28-year-old videographer and graphic designer, had been working hard to pay off his student-loans when he and his girlfriend Monique Seitz got engaged.

“We got closer to picking a wedding day,” Davis recalls, “and Monique jokingly said ‘We’re not getting married until you figure out your loans.’” Though Davis and Seitz both had some debt, Davis had significantly more.

Joint finances are hard enough even without the added complication of disproportionate student debt. Jeffrey Dew, an associate professor at Utah State University, has found that financial disagreements are a strong predictor of divorce—couples who argued over finances several times a week were more than 30 percent more likely to divorce than those who only did so less than once a month. In one recent survey, 44 percent of Americans said personal finances were the toughest thing to talk about—ahead of religion, politics, and even death.

Disproportionate student debt can make that already-challenging conversation all the more complicated. A survey by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling found that 57 percent of respondents had reservations about being in a relationship with someone with a large amount of debt, with 37 percent saying that they’d wait to get married until the debts were repaid, and slightly more—46 percent—saying they’d be open to getting married and jointly paying off the debt. …



Race and poverty are another set of the president’s failures and the Dems naturally don’t want to talk about his record there. Jennifer Rubin posts. 

A New York Times/CBS poll finds almost 60 percent of Americans think race relations are poor as compared with less than 40 percent who felt that way when President Obama was elected. We’ve had multiple instances of urban rioting stemming from interactions between the police and African Americans. Poverty is at historic highs. A higher percentage of children live in poverty than at the start of the Great Depression. “Nearly 40% of all African-American children live below the poverty line, compared with only 14% of whites.” It’s dismal.

What is even more peculiar is that Hillary Clinton does not talk about it all that much, except to give a nod to criminal reform. It is actually Republicans like Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), former Texas governor Rick Perry, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and former Florida governor Jeb Bush who are setting forth policy proposals and expressing grave concern about the racial and economic divide.

Now, in fairness, Clinton doesn’t talk about much of anything in detail and rarely says much that is new or intriguing on any topic, but nevertheless, she gave an economic speech generally focused on the middle class. What about the poor? What about African Americans mired in poverty?

The reason Republicans are talking more about these subjects is clear. The emphasis on conservative reform, coupled with the political necessity of broadening the party’s appeal, has spurred some (certainly not all) Republicans at the national level to speak in a different way about poverty and offer new solutions. …



Notwithstanding the many obama failures, the media works to inflate his legacy. Ben Domenech in the Federalist.

Here and there you can find the initial media framing of President Obama’s legacy, largely couched in terms of the Iran deal currently making its way toward what looks like a limping passage through the Congress. Here’s one such piece by Dick Meyer. It outlines five different aspects of Obama’s legacy – the Iran deal, Obamacare, resolution of the financial crisis, racial leadership, and a complete lack of scandals while in office. Yes, that last one’s really there.

(It’s odd that gay marriage isn’t listed, given that it’s probably going to be front and center from here on out despite Obama’s late-game switch on the issue. I guess Joe Biden gets more credit for that?)

So let’s consider these five legacy-defining aspects of Obama’s presidency. First, the legacy of the Iran deal is a risky one, and it may not turn out to be one Obama wants. As David Harsanyi writes today: “Perhaps the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic does not feel compelled to indulge in American fairytale endings? Khamenei knows there is almost no way sanctions will return, even if he cheats. He understands his nation will be poised to have nuclear weapons in a decade, at the latest. Few people, even advocates of the P5+1 deal, argue we can stop the mullahs in the long run. Best-case scenario, as Fred Kaplan contends in Slate, is that the Islamic regime will get bored of hating us and join the community of nations.” So that’s a dubious measure of his foreign policy legacy, particularly considering that it is more likely any of the other more prominent aspects of his tenure – the rise of ISIS, the China hack, the Snowden disaster, the failure to close Gitmo, the increase of domestic terrorism, the mismanagement in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the failure to contain Russian expansionism – are tied to Obama historically. …

… Obama’s presidency will look very different indeed in the history books, unrecognizable compared to the one his cheerleaders believe he has led. And that in itself tells you something about our media, which is so dedicated to the hard work of making President Obama’s legacy a lot more impressive than it is.

July 23, 2015

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City Journal on the transformation of the city of Hanoi and all of Vietnam. Seems they like markets. The leaders elected by our fellow citizens are too blinded by ideology and hate to understand what free enterprise offers to ordinary people.

After the Vietnam War ended in 1975, Hanoi, capital of a now-unified, Communist Vietnam, was a bombed-out disasterscape. Residents lived under an egalitarian reign of terror. The grim ideologues who ran the country forbade citizens to socialize with or even speak to the few foreign visitors. People queued up in long lines past government stores with bare shelves to exchange ration coupons for meager handfuls of rice. The only traffic on the street was the occasional bicycle.

Since then, however, Hanoi has transformed itself more dramatically than almost any other city in the world. Today, the city is an explosive capitalist volcano, and Vietnam is rapidly on its way to becoming a formidable economic and military power. “Many revolutions are begun by conservatives,” Christopher Hitchens once said, paraphrasing John Maynard Keynes, “because these are people who tried to make the existing system work and they know why it does not. Which is quite a profound insight. It used to be known in Marx’s terms as revolution from above.” That’s exactly what happened in Vietnam, though the revolutionaries weren’t conservatives. They were Communists.

Hanoi had a rough twentieth century. …

… In the mid-1980s, a fight broke out between those who wanted to continue with the old system and those who had already benefited from quiet micro-capitalist reforms enacted in 1979 and wanted to expand them. Southerners made noise about returning to the pre-Communist system that they knew, from personal experience, worked much better. The relative economic success of other Southeast Asian nations, especially Thailand, was obvious even to the ideologues.

The advocates of change won the argument, and in 1986, the government officially abandoned Marxist-Leninist economics and announced the Doi Moi reforms, defined as an attempt to create a “socialist-oriented market economy.” Presumably, party leaders left the word “socialist” in there because they were embarrassed by Marxism’s failures and couldn’t admit that they’d been wrong. Or perhaps they feared that their remaining supporters were allergic to the word “capitalism.” No matter. Vietnam officially junked Communism a mere 11 years after imposing it on South Vietnam.

State subsidies were abolished. Private businesses were allowed to operate again. Businessmen, investors, and employees could keep their profits and wages. Farmers could sell their produce on the open market and keep the proceeds instead of giving them up to the state. The results were spectacular. It took some time for a middle class to emerge, but from 1993 to 2004, the percentage of Vietnamese living in poverty dropped from 60 percent to 20 percent. …

… “Not in my wildest dreams,” said an Australian man on holiday I bumped into, “could I have imagined what an absolute madhouse Hanoi is.” I was a little less shocked, having lived in Beirut, but he’s right. Hanoi is a madhouse, the diametric opposite of dead cities like Havana and Pyongyang. The city thunders with a never-ending cacophony of honking, zooming, blaring, shouting, pounding, and jackhammering, even late into the evening. …




An example of our country’s stupidity is provided by Michael Barone as the administration continues its war on suburbs.

Disparate impact — it’s a legal doctrine that may be coming soon to your suburb (if you’re part of the national majority living in suburbs). 

Bringing it there will be the Obama Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing program. It has been given a green light to impose the rule from Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion in the Supreme Court’s 5–4 decision in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project. …

… HUD Secretary Julian Castro, mentioned as a vice-presidential candidate despite having previously been just a part-time municipal mayor, wants to use the disparate-impact doctrine to overturn local zoning laws and place low-income housing in suburbs across the nation. Such social engineering is likely to be widely unpopular.

How did disparate impact come into the law? In a 1971 Supreme Court case, Griggs v. Duke Power Co., the Court, acting when memory was still fresh of Southern resistance to desegregation, ruled that the company’s aptitude test amounted to discrimination because whites passed at higher rates than did blacks. But that’s true of most aptitude tests — which as a result aren’t used much in hiring any more.

An approach more appropriate for a society where there is no significant forcible resistance to desegregation was advanced by Justice Clarence Thomas in his dissent. “We should not automatically presume that any institution with a neutral practice that happens to produce a racial disparity is guilty of discrimination until proven innocent,” he wrote. “The absence of racial disparities in multi-ethnic societies has been the exception, not the rule.” …




Federalist sees the NY Times running interference for Planned Parenthood.

Planned Parenthood is in hot water due to videos showing its executives haggling over the prices of baby body parts, and the New York Times wants to make sure its readers know that Planned Parenthood is awesome and its detractors are icky. …

… The video and news stories about it went viral almost immediately, with the topic shooting to the top of trending topic lists for both Twitter and Facebook. If you exclusively read the New York Times, however, you’d know nothing of the story. That’s because the paper, along with sites like Huffington Post and BuzzFeed, refused to publish anything about the new video yesterday.



Nevertheless, according to The Hill, the left fears the backlash as Planned Parenthood people are making cringe inducing statements.

Critics of Planned Parenthood on Tuesday released a second secretly recorded video related to fetal parts, putting the group on the defensive and spurring fears on the left of a new ACORN scandal.

The new video shows Dr. Mary Gatter, a Planned Parenthood official, apparently negotiating the price of fetal tissue for medical research. The Center for Medical Progress, which is behind the video, says it shows Planned Parenthood illegally profiting off the sale of fetal organs.

Planned Parenthood rejects that claim. In both videos, the officials in question say they are looking for compensation for expenses, not profit.

But there are also embarrassing statements in both videos that are painting the organization in an unflattering light.

At one point in the latest video, Gatter jokes, “I want a Lamborghini,” when negotiating prices. She also refers to using a “less crunchy” technique for keeping fetal body parts intact. In the first video, the group’s senior director of medical services, Dr. Deborah Nucatola, is heard candidly describing the uses of fetal organs in between sips of wine and bites of salad. 

“Once again we are at a loss for words by the brazen manner in which Planned Parenthood employees casually discuss the harvesting of aborted babies’ tissue and organs,” Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) said in a statement. “These videos give us a window into the soul of the big abortion industry and expose their past statements as flat-out lies.”

The growing firestorm over the footage is alarming supporters of abortion rights. …




But the media will not be bowed. Power Line posts on the reporter WaPo has hired to report on the conservatives he hates.

… Weigel’s contempt extended beyond conservative personalities to broad precincts of the conservative movement. He moaned: “Honestly, it’s been tough to find fresh angles sometimes–how many times can I report that these [tea party] activists are joyfully signing up with the agenda of discredited right-winger X and discredited right-wing group Y?”

He also accused conservatives of using the media to “violently, angrily divide America.” (Emphasis added) Their motives, he said, included “racism” and protecting “white privilege,” and for some of the top conservatives in D.C., a nihilistic thirst for power.

After these and other such remarks were made public, Weigel “resigned.” He has acknowledged that, in effect, the Post fired him.

The Post’s then-Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli cited his paper’s lack of tolerance for “the perception that people are conflicted or bring a bias to their work.” “Perception” was, I believe, the key word.

Anti-conservative bias might be okay, but the Post believed it would not do for a reporter whose contempt for, if not hatred of, conservatives had been publicly exposed to hold down the paper’s conservative beat. One hopes that it also questioned whether a reporter this intemperate should hold down any serious news beat.

But now the Post has brought Weigel back and given him a portion of the 2016 presidential beat. Perceived as too biased to cover conservatives in general, he will now cover conservative presidential candidates. What should we make of this?

The Post, without referring to Weigel’s 2010 resignation/dismissal, explained that Weigel brings a “one-of-a-kind perspective and voice to our campaign team.” That’s a way of putting it, albeit a question-begging one. …

July 22, 2015

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Yesterday potatoes, today corn. Smithsonian Magazine with the lowdown on corn.

Corn has a bad rap. Think of those 90 million U.S. acres growing the stuff, and what comes to mind? Monocrops, perhaps? Cheap meat and processed foods? Ethanol? Subsidies? Polenta might not even make your list.

But let’s separate corn, the plant, from corn, the cog in the industrial machine. There’s a strong case (which I’m going to make) that field corn, used as a grain, is the single most important food crop on the planet. That case is based on what I’ll contend is the most underappreciated metric in agriculture. I am, singlehandedly, going to try to change that. Yes, I am going to try to make you care about an arcane agricultural metric to which, heretofore, you probably have given not a moment’s thought.

That metric is calories per acre.

Calories matter because every last one of us needs about 1 million of them each year. They certainly aren’t the only thing we need; we also need vitamins and minerals, fats and protein. But if we don’t have those 1 million calories, other needs fade into the background. There’s not much point in talking about phytonutrients if people are starving.

In the calorie department, corn is king. In 2014, average yield in the United States was 171 bushels per acre. (And the world record is an astonishing 503 bushels, set by a farmer in Valdosta, Ga.) Each bushel weighs 56 pounds and each pound of corn yields about 1,566 calories. That means corn averages roughly 15 million calories per acre. (Again, I’m talking about field corn, a.k.a. dent corn, which is dried before processing. Sweet corn and popcorn are different varieties, grown for much more limited uses, and have lower yields.) If you had taken our 2014 corn harvest of 14.2 billion bushels and used it to feed people, it would have met 17 percent of the entire world’s caloric needs.

By contrast, wheat comes in at about 4 million calories per acre, soy at 6 million. Rice is also very high-yielding, at 11 million, and potatoes are one of the few crops that can rival corn: They also yield about 15 million (although record corn yields are much higher than record potato yields).



City Journal with a post on what ails shopping malls and how they might be cured.

                                                 … Many of today’s shopping malls maintain a ghostly presence on the fringes of America’s urban spaces. Nearly 15 percent of malls are between 10 and 40 percent vacant, up from just 5 percent in 2006. Another 30 million square feet of mall retail space are in the throes of what real estate analyst D.J. Busch of Green Street Advisors terms a “death spiral.”

Shoppers are increasingly making purchases from home; Internet sales reached 6 percent of total retail spending in the fourth quarter of 2013, nearly doubling their share from 2006. Many parts of America are “over-malled,” suffering from nineties-era overbuilding that left a glut of retail space that’s hard to fill. Older malls are feeling the pinch. Though the bulk of shopping malls remain healthy to an accountant’s eye, they’re fast becoming cultural dinosaurs. Many shoppers feel alienated by their concrete brutalism and aging, introverted atmosphere. “Within ten to fifteen years,” says mall developer Rick Caruso, “the typical U.S. mall, unless it is completely reinvented, will be a historical anachronism—a sixty-year aberration that no longer meets the public’s needs, the retailers’ needs, or the community’s needs.”

Is it possible to breathe life into dead malls? “Sometimes a mall goes out of business because it has lost its economic reason for being,” architect Victor Dovernotes, but “almost every community needs something.” We need to “stop thinking about these as failed shopping center properties and start thinking about them as potential mixed-use properties.” Reinventing shopping malls won’t be easy. They are large and inflexible spaces. Yet, as Victor Gruen knew, we have always needed gathering places. That is why we should look back to Gruen’s original vision of the mall to find its purpose for the decades ahead. …




The Guardian says researchers are finding ways to combat memory loss.

Researchers may have found a way to slow down or prevent memory problems that arise in old age and which can become devastating in patients with dementia.

The fresh hope comes from a series of studies in humans and mice that identified a protein which causes memory impairment when it builds up in the blood and brain with age.

Scientists found that injections of the protein made young animals’ memories worse and reduced the growth of new neurons in their brains. Further studies showed that blocking the protein prevented memory loss in older animals, making them smarter than untreated animals of the same age.

The findings are the latest to come from researchers in the US who have shown in previous work that blood plasma taken from young animals can rejuvenate the muscles, brains and other tissues of older animals.

Those studies have led scientists to suspect that blood plasma contains a cocktail of factors that either drive or counteract the natural ageing process. …



Discovery reports one migration from Siberia peopled the Americas.

Native American ancestors reached the New World in a single, initial migration from Siberia at most 23,000 years ago, only later differentiating into today’s distinct groups, DNA research revealed Tuesday.

Most scientists agree the Americas were peopled by forefathers who crossed the Bering land and ice bridge which connected modern-day Russia and Alaska in Earth’s last glacial period.

And it is known through archaeological finds that humans were already present in the Americas 15,000 years ago.

But there was a long list of outstanding questions.

When did the migration take place? In one or several waves? And how long did these early pioneers spend in Beringia — the then-raised land area between Asia and America?

On Tuesday, analysis of Native American and Siberian DNA, present-day and ancient, sought to fill in some of the blanks with two studies carried simultaneously in the journals Science and Nature. …



NY Times reports on vitamin expiration dates.

Vitamins and dietary supplements are not required to carry expiration dates on their labels. This is one area where supplements differ from prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications, which are subject to more stringent regulations.

If companies want to print a “use by” or “best by” date on their supplement labels, they can do so voluntarily. But they are then required to honor those claims, said Tod Cooperman, the president of ConsumerLab.com, a popular independent testing company.

“If you see some type of expiration date,” he said, “the manufacturer is legally required to have stability data demonstrating the product will still have 100 percent of its listed ingredients until that date.”

July 21, 2015

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Now for more important stuff. Reuters reports long time hunter of the Loch Ness monster has decided it was an enormous catfish.

LONDON After nearly quarter century camping out by the banks of Scotland’s Loch Ness hoping to glimpse “Nessie”, the most dedicated hunter of the legendary monster has given up, concluding it is just a very big catfish.

Steve Feltham, who gave up his girlfriend, house and job in southwest England in 1991 to spend his life looking for the Loch Ness monster, believes he has solved the mystery behind its many sightings, the Times newspaper reported on Thursday.

Rather than being a primeval beast, he suspects it is a Wels catfish, a native European catfish that the paper said could grow up to 13 ft (4 meters) long. Victorians introduced the fish to the dark waters of the loch to provide sport. …



Like this monster Prop Talk says was caught in the River Po in Italy.

Italian angler Dino Ferrari caught an eight-foot, 260-lb wels catfish on the River Po in Italy. While the catfish is one of the biggest in European record books, it’s certainly not an anomaly. The record currently stands at 297lbs, 9 oz for anyone looking to break into Guinness…



The Smithsonian tells us about the importance of potatoes.

When potato plants bloom, they send up five-lobed flowers that spangle fields like fat purple stars. By some accounts, Marie Antoinette liked the blossoms so much that she put them in her hair. Her husband, Louis XVI, put one in his buttonhole, inspiring a brief vogue in which the French aristocracy swanned around with potato plants on their clothes. The flowers were part of an attempt to persuade French farmers to plant and French diners to eat this strange new species.

Today the potato is the fifth most important crop worldwide, after wheat, corn, rice and sugar cane. But in the 18th century the tuber was a startling novelty, frightening to some, bewildering to others—part of a global ecological convulsion set off by Christopher Columbus. …

… Many researchers believe that the potato’s arrival in northern Europe spelled an end to famine there. (Corn, another American crop, played a similar but smaller role in southern Europe.) More than that, as the historian William H. McNeill has argued, the potato led to empire: “By feeding rapidly growing populations, [it] permitted a handful of European nations to assert dominion over most of the world between 1750 and 1950.” The potato, in other words, fueled the rise of the West.

Equally important, the European and North American adoption of the potato set the template for modern agriculture—the so-called agro-industrial complex. …

… Geographically, the Andes are an unlikely birthplace for a major staple crop. The longest mountain range on the planet, it forms an icy barrier on the Pacific Coast of South America 5,500 miles long and in many places more than 22,000 feet high. Active volcanoes scattered along its length are linked by geologic faults, which push against one another and trigger earthquakes, floods and landslides. Even when the land is seismically quiet, the Andean climate is active. Temperatures in the highlands can fluctuate from 75 degrees Fahrenheit to below freezing in a few hours—the air is too thin to hold the heat. …

… The first Spaniards in the region—the band led by Francisco Pizarro, who landed in 1532—noticed Indians eating these strange, round objects and emulated them, often reluctantly. News of the new food spread rapidly. Within three decades, Spanish farmers as far away as the Canary Islands were exporting potatoes to France and the Netherlands (which were then part of the Spanish empire). …

… France was especially slow to adopt the spud. Into the fray stepped Antoine-Augustin Parmentier, the potato’s Johnny Appleseed.

Trained as a pharmacist, Parmentier served in the army during the Seven Years’ War and was captured by the Prussians—five times. During his multiple prison stints he ate little but potatoes, a diet that kept him in good health. His surprise at this outcome led Parmentier to become a pioneering nutritional chemist after the war ended, in 1763; he devoted the rest of his life to promulgating S. tuberosum. …

… Before the potato (and corn), before intensive fertilization, European living standards were roughly equivalent to those in Cameroon and Bangladesh today. On average, European peasants ate less per day than hunting-and-gathering societies in Africa or the Amazon. Industrial monoculture allowed billions of people—in Europe first, and then in much of the rest of the world—to escape poverty. The revolution begun by potatoes, corn and guano has allowed living standards to double or triple worldwide even as human numbers climbed from fewer than one billion in 1700 to some seven billion today. …

July 20, 2015

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Time for the Iran agreement to get comments from some of our favorites. John Podhoretz starts us off.

The president gave a press conference today in which he spent, by my calculation, almost 45 minutes talking about the Iran deal. He knows it inside and out and he and his people have clearly spent days if not weeks pre-sculpting arguments against its weaknesses. He droned on, wouldn’t allow many questions, and was very boring and repetitive, but in an essential sense, he was effective in laying out the case — not for the deal itself exactly but against those who are against it. It boils down to this (these are my words, not his): “We wanted to keep Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. We’ve done it. And if you say otherwise, you either don’t know what you’re talking about or you want war.” …



Charles Krauthammer is next.

When you write a column, as did I two weeks ago, headlined “The worst agreement in U.S. diplomatic history,” you don’t expect to revisit the issue. We had hit bottom. Or so I thought. Then on Tuesday the final terms of the Iranian nuclear deal were published. I was wrong.

Who would have imagined we would be giving up the conventional arms and ballistic missile embargoes on Iran? In nuclear negotiations?

When asked Wednesday at his news conference why there is nothing in the deal about the American hostages being held by Iran, President Obama explained that this is a separate issue, not part of nuclear talks.

Are conventional weapons not a separate issue? After all, conventional, by definition, means non-nuclear. Why are we giving up the embargoes?

Because Iran, joined by Russia — our “reset” partner — sprung the demand at the last minute, calculating that Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry were so desperate for a deal that they would cave. They did. …



Jennifer Rubin says the prez is an expert at enraging congress. 

The Obama administration made clear Wednesday that after years of negotiations with Iran it would not wait for the 60-day consideration period it agreed to give Congress to vote up or down and instead would go first to the United Nations Security Council.

“This certainly violates the spirit, if not the letter of the Nuclear Agreement Review Act,” says sanctions guru Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. The president, Dubowitz says, “should explain to the American people” why the UN gets first crack at the deal.

The Nuclear Agreement Review Act plainly states that “during the period for review provided in paragraph (1), the President may not waive, suspend, reduce, provide relief from, or otherwise limit the application of statutory sanctions with respect to Iran under any provision of law or refrain from applying any such sanctions.” But that is precisely what the president is doing when he goes to the U.N., gets the international community to lift sanctions and then tells Congress it must approve the deal or put the United States at odds with the international community. He is attempting to box in Congress after previously agreeing to give its members time to fully consider the deal. …




Rubin also wonders how many times obama will con the Dems on Iran. 

The Democrats in Congress need to recover their self-esteem. They’ve been played for fools and directly misled time and again by the White House.

The president signed the Iranian Nuclear Agreement Review Act and spoke about the importance of Congress fully participating in the approval process. Then along comes negotiator Wendy Sherman in a press conference: “Well, the way that the U.N. Security Council resolution is structured, there is an interim period of 60 to 90 days that I think will accommodate the congressional review. And it would have been a little difficult when all of the members of the P5+1 wanted to go to the United Nations to get an endorsement of this since it is a product of the United Nations process, for us to say, ‘Well, excuse me, the world, you should wait for the United States Congress.’” Joke’s on you, Democrats.

The president and administration officials said dozens of times that they would get anywhere/anytime inspections. Deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes says now they never sought that. Wendy Sherman calls it a rhetorical flourish. Silly Democrats, you should have known better. …



Peter Wehner calls it obama’s worst mistake.

I wanted to add my voice to those who have already written about the deal between Iran and Western powers, led by the United States. It is an agreement that is likely to set in motion a terrible chain of events — reviving the Iranian economy while simultaneously putting Iran well on the road to gaining nuclear weapons and triggering a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Iran’s behavior is likely to be more, not less, aggressive, from threatening other nations to supporting terrorist organizations. Our allies can only conclude that the United States is unsteady and unreliable, having cast its lot with the most destabilizing regime in the world today — one that is an existential threat to Israel, and where chants of “Death to America!” can still be heard at prayer services every week. Historians may well consider this date to be a time when, as Max Boot put it, “American dominance in the Middle East was supplanted by the Iranian Imperium.” …




Matthew Continetti sums it up.

… The Iran deal is a fabulous artifice, an intricately woven shawl that masks its real intent: the avoidance of military confrontation with Iran and the rise of Persian regional hegemony. “Either the issue of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon is resolved diplomatically through a negotiation,” President Obama said at his press conference Thursday, “or it’s resolved through war. Those are the options.” He presented his diplomatic resolution as a fait accompli, as the best America could ever hope to do. If the deal favors Iran, which it unequivocally does— without so much as closing a nuclear facility this rogue regime gets cash, legitimacy, and an end to U.N. bans on sales of conventional weapons and ballistic missile technology—it is because Obama wanted desperately to pursue the diplomatic option and prove its validity. …

… The Iran deal isn’t an accomplishment. It required no sacrifice. Both sides wanted a deal: Iran to receive sanctions relief and assert its national pride, Obama to forestall having to take action, to prove diplomacy can work, to entertain the possibility of true détente with a longtime adversary. And both sides got what they wanted: Iran its money, weapons, missiles, and nuclear infrastructure intact, Obama a “legacy” item that allows him to smear Republicans and Israelis as warmongers. Obama says he’s aware of the nature of the Iranian regime, but he chooses to ignore that nature if it wins him plaudits from the international left and breathing room before an Iranian bomb. The deal is a finely wrought escape pod for Obama and Kerry: get out of town in 2017 on your high horse, your sanctimony and idealism unblemished.

Willfully optimistic about Iranian intentions, knowingly blind to Iranian malfeasance, to Iran’s murder of our soldiers, its imprisonment of our citizens, the deal is a rather stunning example of the lengths to which our elites will go in order to preserve the fiction of common interests, of the “international community,” of the power of engagement to liberalize autocracies. Media and cultural institutions will reward Obama and Kerry and Rouhani and Zarif for upholding the shibboleths that rule the world: give peace a chance, jaw jaw is better than war war, we’re all in this together, put yourself in the mullah’s shoes, Kennedy and Reagan negotiated with a superpower so why can’t we parody their example by kowtowing to a two-bit fundamentalist regime on the verge of bankruptcy whose shrinking population is addled by drugs and venereal disease. Meanwhile Iranian centrifuges will spin, Iran’s proxies are sowing chaos, its missile program is active, its adversarial posture toward Israel and America and the West is unbroken, and, as Jim Webb put it, “After a period of 10 years they are going to be able to say that they can move forward with a nuclear weapons policy with our acceptance.”

What we have in the Iran deal is another instance of the ruling caste distorting reality to suit its ideological preferences. …

July 19, 2015

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A long essay from The New Yorker on the earthquake that could destroy the country’s northwest coast.

When the 2011 earthquake and tsunami struck Tohoku, Japan, Chris Goldfinger was two hundred miles away, in the city of Kashiwa, at an international meeting on seismology. As the shaking started, everyone in the room began to laugh. Earthquakes are common in Japan—that one was the third of the week—and the participants were, after all, at a seismology conference. Then everyone in the room checked the time.

Seismologists know that how long an earthquake lasts is a decent proxy for its magnitude. The 1989 earthquake in Loma Prieta, California, which killed sixty-three people and caused six billion dollars’ worth of damage, lasted about fifteen seconds and had a magnitude of 6.9. A thirty-second earthquake generally has a magnitude in the mid-sevens. A minute-long quake is in the high sevens, a two-minute quake has entered the eights, and a three-minute quake is in the high eights. By four minutes, an earthquake has hit magnitude 9.0.

When Goldfinger looked at his watch, it was quarter to three. The conference was wrapping up for the day. He was thinking about sushi. The speaker at the lectern was wondering if he should carry on with his talk. The earthquake was not particularly strong. Then it ticked past the sixty-second mark, making it longer than the others that week. The shaking intensified. The seats in the conference room were small plastic desks with wheels. Goldfinger, who is tall and solidly built, thought, No way am I crouching under one of those for cover. At a minute and a half, everyone in the room got up and went outside.

It was March. There was a chill in the air, and snow flurries, but no snow on the ground. Nor, from the feel of it, was there ground on the ground. The earth snapped and popped and rippled. It was, Goldfinger thought, like driving through rocky terrain in a vehicle with no shocks, if both the vehicle and the terrain were also on a raft in high seas. The quake passed the two-minute mark. The trees, still hung with the previous autumn’s dead leaves, were making a strange rattling sound. The flagpole atop the building he and his colleagues had just vacated was whipping through an arc of forty degrees. The building itself was base-isolated, a seismic-safety technology in which the body of a structure rests on movable bearings rather than directly on its foundation. Goldfinger lurched over to take a look. The base was lurching, too, back and forth a foot at a time, digging a trench in the yard. He thought better of it, and lurched away. His watch swept past the three-minute mark and kept going. …


… we now know that the Pacific Northwest has experienced forty-one subduction-zone earthquakes in the past ten thousand years. If you divide ten thousand by forty-one, you get two hundred and forty-three, which is Cascadia’s recurrence interval: the average amount of time that elapses between earthquakes. That timespan is dangerous both because it is too long—long enough for us to unwittingly build an entire civilization on top of our continent’s worst fault line—and because it is not long enough. Counting from the earthquake of 1700, we are now three hundred and fifteen years into a two-hundred-and-forty-three-year cycle. …





A Chicago Cubs fan struggles with the idea of winning.

The Chicago I grew up in was a place of distinction. Everyone was boasting. All the time. We had the biggest, deepest, grandest and most storied everything. Tallest tower—Sears. Largest outdoor illuminated fountain—Buckingham. Bloodiest stockyards—Union. One of our baseball teams had thrown the World Series, and the other was the Cubs. At Wrigley Field, I saw a kid, a little kid, the sort that might be damaged by such a thing, wearing a shirt that had big words (Chicago Cubs World Champs) over tiny numbers—1908. Whenever I meet complaining Mets or Yankees fans, I tell them about some of the things that have come and gone since the Cubs last won the World Series: Communism and fascism, disco, moon boots, grunge. Of course, the bleacher bums take pride in it. If you’re going to suck, you might as well suck longer and harder and in a more serious fashion than anyone has ever sucked before—that’s the Chicago way.

My father, who grew up in Brooklyn, warned me not to fall in love with the Cubs. He said a Cubs fan will have a bad life, as such a fan will come to regard defeat as the natural end of all human endeavor. …


… By accepting the inevitability of defeat, a Cubs fan can actually live a better life, become a better person. A Cubs fan is a Buddhist. He or she knows that life is suffering and that relief from that suffering comes only by giving up all expectation and desire for victory. In its place, you receive the gift of right now, which is Wrigley Field on a perfect summer day when a breeze is wreaking havoc in the ivy. …


… Thrilled as I am about the prospect of victory, part of me dreads winning. It’s a pathology, a condition caused by all those years of misery. Like lots of fans, I’ve come to depend on losing. I need it and sleep with it and desire it and explore it. It’s shaped me, and made me special. A Cubs fan is unique and even necessary, a symbol of defeat in a fallen world, a world where everyone will eventually perish. If my team wins, they will become ordinary. If my team wins, they will later lose. Then they will have become just another team that has won, not very long ago, but is not winning anymore. In winning, the Cubs will make a lot of people happy, but the happiness will fade, and, once it’s faded, what will we have given up? The certainty and distinction and grandeur of epic failure. The humility and holy rags of degradation, the very quality that sets a Cubs fan apart and above. Gone will be the chance to prove the purity of our love for the game. Anyone can look good while winning. Only an aristocrat can be graceful in defeat.