October 16, 2014

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Jennifer Rubin points to GOP snake oil salesmen.

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to let gay marriage bans fall in another batch of states, there are two types of responses from conservatives. The first acknowledges reality; the second misleads voters that there is something tangible to be done to stop the wave of social change.

In the first category, some Republicans like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker have simply said in effect the boat has sailed. Others like Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) gave eloquent critiques of the Supreme Court and expressed his sincere disappointment the court did not act differently. ..

… Then there are the pols who would have us believe there is something realistically that can stop this and that those who refuse are just weaklings. Gov. Mike Huckabee went so far as to threaten to leave the GOP if Republicans “raise the white flag” on gay marriage. …

… Unfortunately this reaction is emblematic of the politics of empty gestures and illogical crusades. It bonds with voters over a sense of agrievement, but offers no realistic political course to their desired end. And it vilifies their allies on a host of other issues who won’t play the look-how-heartfelt-I-am-unlike-those-squishy-politicians game. It is not behavior becoming of a national leader. …



Jennifer has more on GOP snake oil salesmen with a special emphasis on Mike Huckabee. Pickerhead would rather have a third term of the present clueless feckless hapless president then Huckabee.

As I noted last week, some Republicans are peddling snake oil in their pitch to social conservatives not to “surrender” on gay marriage. Among the worst offenders was former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, who threatened to leave the party if the Republicans, well, if the Republicans don’t . . . what is it that he wants?

On his Fox show and online he struggled to explain what he meant. Mostly he just repeated the same empty phrases. (“Here’s my advice — grow a spine! Show a modicum of knowledge about the way we govern ourselves! And lead, follow, or get the heck out of the way!”) But what does that mean? Well, Huckabee really goes off the rails invoking a discredited far-right notion that we need not succumb to “judicial tyranny”:

“In recent years, the doctrine of Judicial Supremacy has trampled both the Constitution and common sense. The court can certainly rule on an issue, but unless the legislature passes enabling legislation and funds it, and unless the Executive branch signs it and enforces it, it certainly is not “the law of the land!” That’s often exclaimed with authority by voices that belong to people that I wonder — did they pass 9th grade civics? The law of the land requires agreement of all three branches.”

I am afraid it is Huckabee who skipped civics. …


Victor Davis Hanson says things in DC have gone from comedy to farce.

It was tragically comical that the commander in chief in just a few weeks could go from referring to ISIS as “jayvee” and a manageable problem to declaring it an existential threat, in the same manner he upgraded the Free Syrian Army from amateurs and a fantasy to our ground linchpin in the new air war. All that tragic comedy was a continuance of his previous untruths, such as the assurance that existing health plans and doctors would not change under the Affordable Care Act or that there was not a smidgeon of corruption at the IRS.

But lately the Obama confusion has descended into the territory not of tragedy or even tragic comedy, but rather of outright farce.

Last week we learned from the Washington Post that an investigator looking into the Secret Service prostitution scandal was ordered by the inspector general “to withhold and alter certain information in the report of investigation because it was potentially embarrassing to the administration.” The “embarrassing” information was the allegation that a member of the White House staff advance team had solicited a prostitute while prepping Obama’s Colombia visit — a fact denied by then-White House Press Secretary Jay Carney in April 2012, when he assured the press that no one from the White House was involved in the scandal that brought down lots of Secret Service and military personnel.

But here is where the farcical kicks in. The squelched investigation was focused on White House staffer Jonathan Dach. And who is Dach? He was at the time a young Yale law student and White House staffer, and is now a State Department activist working on — what else? — “Global Women’s Issues.” …



Slate tells us why decision making saps our strength and how it can be avoided.

After my first day of work in a new city, I found myself sprawled facedown on the carpet of my new apartment. I needed to buy a couch, to finish writing assignments from my last job, to walk the dog—but after deciding which route to take between home and work, choosing a health insurance plan, and setting up a dozen new account passwords, I was totally useless. My husband asked me what I wanted to eat for dinner, and I didn’t care, as long as I didn’t have to think up a menu. It turns out there’s a scientific explanation for what I was experiencing: decision fatigue.

The name is self-explanatory; constant decision-making can be overwhelming. Think about something as simple as grocery shopping after work. Do you get the organic berries at $7 or the nonorganic at $4? Which style of pasta? Which brand of juice? If you’re like me, you only manage to pick out a few things before you get cranky.

It may seem liberating to live in a land of infinite choices, but research in decision-making suggests otherwise. …



Heather Mac Donald on the neo-victorianism on the college campus.

… It is impossible to overstate the growing weirdness of the college sex scene. Campus feminists are reimporting selective portions of a traditional sexual code that they have long scorned, in the name of ending what they preposterously call an epidemic of campus rape. They are once again making males the guardians of female safety and are portraying females as fainting, helpless victims of the untrammeled male libido. They are demanding that college administrators write highly technical rules for sex and aggressively enforce them, 50 years after the proponents of sexual liberation insisted that college adults stop policing student sexual behavior. While the campus feminists are not yet calling for an assistant dean to be present at their drunken couplings, they have created the next best thing: the opportunity to replay every grope and caress before a tribunal of voyeuristic administrators.

The ultimate result of the feminists’ crusade may be the same as if they were explicitly calling for a return to sexual modesty: a sharp decrease in casual, drunken sex. There is no downside to this development. 

Let us recall the norms which the sexual revolution contemptuously swept away in the 1960s. Males and females were assumed on average to have different needs regarding sex: The omnivorous male sex drive would leap at all available targets, whereas females were more selective, associating sex with love and commitment. The male was expected to channel his desire for sex through the rituals of courtship and a proposal of marriage. A high premium was placed on female chastity and great significance accorded its loss; males, by contrast, were given a virtual free pass to play the sexual field to the extent that they could find or purchase a willing partner. The default setting for premarital sex was “no,” at least for females. Girls could opt out of that default—and many did. But placing the default at “no” meant that a female didn’t have to justify her decision not to have sex with particular reasons each time a male importuned her; individual sexual restraint was backed up by collective values. On campuses, administrators enforced these norms through visitation rules designed to prevent student couplings. 

The sexual revolution threw these arrangements aside. …



Public Radio International post on how the language of science became English.

Permafrost, oxygen, hydrogen — it all looks like science to me.

But these terms actually have origins in Russian, Greek and French.

Today though, if a scientist is going to coin a new term, it’s most likely in English. And if they are going to publish a new discovery, it is most definitely in English.

Look no further than the Nobel prize awarded for physiology and medicine to Norwegian couple May-Britt and Edvard Moser. Their research was written and published in English. This was not always so.

“If you look around the world in 1900, and someone told you, ‘Guess what the universal language of science will be in the year 2000?’ You would first of all laugh at them because it was obvious that no one language would be the language of science, but a mixture of French, German and English would be the right answer,” said Michael Gordin.

Gordin is a professor of the history of science at Princeton and his upcoming book, Scientific Babel, explores the history of language and science. …

October 15, 2014

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Bret Stephens skewers two fatuous poseurs (Paul Krugman and the president) as he starts out today’s column on how the world might survive two more years of the this presidency. In the last two days there were 8 bombing sorties against ISIS. As an aside, Pickerhead will point out 72 years ago today it was demonstrated what an unserious president we have. On October 14, 1942 the Luftwaffe made 2,000 sorties against the 5 square miles of Stalingrad not in their hands and the Soviet staging areas across the Volga. 

So Paul Krugman , who once called on Alan Greenspan “to create a housing bubble to replace the Nasdaq bubble”; who, a few months before the eurozone crisis erupted, praised Europe as “an economic success” that “shows that social democracy works”; who, as the U.S. fracking revolution was getting under way, opined that America was “just a bystander” in a global energy story defined by “peak oil”; and who, in 2012, hailed Argentina’s economy as a “remarkable success story”—this guy now tells us, in Rolling Stone magazine, that Barack Obama has been a terrific president.

Which can only mean that the next two years are going to be exceptionally ugly. How to get through them? …



Stephen Hayes writes - Failure Upon Failure; The disintegration of a presidency. This is a long one, but worth reading.

A year before his first inauguration, Barack Obama laid out the objective of his presidency: to renew faith and trust in -activist government and transform the country. In an hourlong interview with the editorial board of the Reno Gazette-Journal on January 16, 2008, Obama said that his campaign was already “shifting the political paradigm” and promised that his presidency would do the same. His model would be Ronald Reagan, who “put us on a fundamentally different path,” in a way that distinguished him from leaders who were content merely to occupy the office. “I think that Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not. And in a way that Bill Clinton did not.”

If Reagan sought to minimize the role of government in the lives of Americans, Obama set out to do the opposite. “We’ve had a federal government that I think has gotten worn down and ineffective over the course of the Bush administration, partly because philosophically this administration did not believe in government as an agent of change,” he complained.

“I want to make government cool again,” he said.

Obama believed in government, and he was confident that his election would signal that the American people were ready to believe again, too.

As we approach the sixth anniversary of his election, the Obama presidency is in tatters. …


… Obama sought to portray himself as a new kind of politician​—​a “post-partisan,” pragmatic problem-solver, not so much a centrist as someone who couldn’t be pinpointed on the left-right ideological spectrum because he floated above it. Traditional labels were anachronistic constructs that didn’t apply to such a transcendent political figure.

Journalists not only swallowed this legend, many of them promoted it. …


… When moderate Democrats expressed concern that Obama’s aggressive liberalism would threaten congres-sional majorities, as had happened in 1994, the White House was dismissive. “The big difference between here and in ’94 was you’ve got me,” Obama told a group of lawmakers. …


… The problems with Obamacare were so bad that they elicited public criticism from Obama’s two living Democratic predecessors. “His major accomplishment was Obamacare and the implementation of it is now questionable at best,” said Jimmy Carter. Bill Clinton urged Obama to keep his word. “The president should honor the commitment the federal government made to those people and let them keep what they got.”

The Obama presidency has seen many low points, but this has to have been one of the lowest​—​Jimmy Carter questioning Obama’s competence and Bill Clinton questioning his integrity. …


… The scandals and policy failures have had a devastating effect. With two years left in his presidency, Obama has no agenda. The major new investments and initiatives that he spoke of after his election never happened. Gun control measures he pushed went nowhere. Immigration reform​—​at least the comprehensive variety that Obama demanded​—​is dead. As the investigations of old scandals continue, new ones have taken their place on newspaper front pages across the country: the chronic failures of the VA and, most recently, a serious cover-up involving the Secret Service.

When he’s not on the golf course, the president seems to spend most of his time fundraising for vulnerable Democrats, threatening executive action on those things he can’t accomplish by leading, and working to minimize crises of his own making.

This is a failed presidency. …


… Here, then, is the great irony of the Obama presidency: Barack Obama will be a transformative president, but not in the way he imagined when he spoke to the Reno Gazette-Journal a year before he took the oath of office. Rather than restore faith in government, the Obama presidency has all but destroyed it. 

Despite himself, Obama has made the case for limited government more powerfully than his opponents. The biggest question in American politics over the next two years is a simple one: Can Republicans take advantage of it?



An amazing thing happened in Denver where the Post endorsed the GOP candidate.

… In every position the Yuma Republican has held over the years — from the state legislature to U.S. House of Representatives — he has quickly become someone to be reckoned with and whose words carry weight. An analysis  on ABC News’ website, for example, singled out Gardner a year ago — before he declared for the Senate — as one of the party’s “rising stars” who represented “a new generation of talent” and who had become a “go-to” member of leadership. …



Jonathan Tobin posts on the significance of the Denver Post’s editorial.

… But the significance of the editorial is that it is one more indication that even liberals understand that the war on women smear is nothing more than empty sloganeering.

The country is deeply divided on social issues but, as they always have in the past, most voters are willing to agree to disagree on abortion provided the positions of candidates are rooted in principle and tempered by common sense. Gardner’s support of over-the-counter birth control is not only, as the Post points out, proof that he isn’t out to ban contraception. It’s also a sensible proposal that would eliminate the need for the government to attempt to force religious employers to pay for free birth control coverage in violation, as the Supreme Court ruled in the Hobby Lobby case, of their First Amendment rights of free exercise of religion.

The paper’s defection from the lockstep liberal smears of Republicans may be a watershed moment in American politics. …

October 14, 2014

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Hernando de Soto says terrorists can be defeated with market economies. For more, here’s de Soto’s Wikipedia entry.

As the U.S. moves into a new theater of the war on terror, it will miss its best chance to beat back Islamic State and other radical groups in the Middle East if it doesn’t deploy a crucial but little-used weapon: an aggressive agenda for economic empowerment. Right now, all we hear about are airstrikes and military maneuvers—which is to be expected when facing down thugs bent on mayhem and destruction.

But if the goal is not only to degrade what President Barack Obama rightly calls Islamic State’s “network of death” but to make it impossible for radical leaders to recruit terrorists in the first place, the West must learn a simple lesson: Economic hope is the only way to win the battle for the constituencies on which terrorist groups feed.

I know something about this. A generation ago, much of Latin America was in turmoil. By 1990, a Marxist-Leninist terrorist organization called Sendero Luminoso, or Shining Path, had seized control of most of my home country, Peru, where I served as the president’s principal adviser. Fashionable opinion held that the people rebelling were the impoverished or underemployed wage slaves of Latin America, that capitalism couldn’t work outside the West and that Latin cultures didn’t really understand market economics.

The conventional wisdom proved to be wrong, however. Reforms in Peru gave indigenous entrepreneurs and farmers control over their assets and a new, more accessible legal framework in which to run businesses, make contracts and borrow—spurring an unprecedented rise in living standards. …


…It is widely known that the Arab Spring was sparked by the self-immolation in 2011 of Mohamed Bouazizi, a 26-year-old Tunisian street merchant. But few have asked why Bouazizi felt driven to kill himself—or why, within 60 days, at least 63 more men and women in Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Egypt also set themselves on fire, sending millions into the streets, toppling four regimes and leading us to today’s turmoil in the Arab world.

To understand why, my institute joined with Utica, Tunisia’s largest business organization, to put together a research team of some 30 Arabs and Peruvians, who fanned out across the region. Over the course of two years, we interviewed the victims’ families and associates, as well as a dozen other self-immolators who had survived their burns.

These suicides, we found, weren’t pleas for political or religious rights or for higher wage subsidies, as some have argued. Bouazizi and the others who burned themselves were extralegal entrepreneurs: builders, contractors, caterers, small vendors and the like. In their dying statements, none referred to religion or politics. Most of those who survived their burns and agreed to be interviewed spoke to us of “economic exclusion.” Their great objective was “ras el mel” (Arabic for “capital”), and their despair and indignation sprang from the arbitrary expropriation of what little capital they had.

Bouazizi’s plight as a small entrepreneur could stand in for the frustrations that millions of Arabs still face. The Tunisian wasn’t a simple laborer. He was a trader from age 12. By the time he was 19, he was keeping the books at the local market. At 26, he was selling fruits and vegetables from different carts and sites.

His mother told us that he was on his way to forming a company of his own and dreamed of buying a pickup truck to take produce to other retail outlets to expand his business. But to get a loan to buy the truck, he needed collateral—and since the assets he held weren’t legally recorded or had murky titles, he didn’t qualify.

Meanwhile, government inspectors made Bouazizi’s life miserable, shaking him down for bribes when he couldn’t produce licenses that were (by design) virtually unobtainable. He tired of the abuse. The day he killed himself, inspectors had come to seize his merchandise and his electronic scale for weighing goods. A tussle began. One municipal inspector, a woman, slapped Bouazizi across the face. That humiliation, along with the confiscation of just $225 worth of his wares, is said to have led the young man to take his own life.



P. J. O’Rourke says we need a Nobel War Prize.

… Wars produce heroes widely recognized by the public. Nobel War Prizes could have been given to Marshal Foch for the Battle of the Marne, Spanish Civil War combatant George Orwell, Winston Churchill, the French Resistance, the U.S. Marine Corps, the Tuskegee Airmen, Charles de Gaulle, FDR, Ike. This is an improvement on the Permanent International Peace Bureau, Charles Albert Gobat, and Ludwig Quidde. The Nobel Foundation’s P.R. profile would be considerably raised.

Then there’s what often comes after a war, which is usually less silly than what comes after a Nobel Peace Prize. Look at the U.S. and Great Britain. Once we got past that 1776 thing we’ve been—with a brief time-out for the War of 1812—road dawgs.

The Southern States and the Northern States after the Civil War? We’re so close that we date-swapped the political parties that had been screwing us.

The Europeans were at daggers drawn for more than 30 years. But look at them after 1945, brothers from other mothers, living in each other’s pockets, Germany lending to France to pay Greece to repay Germany, friends with benefits.

And ever since we started passing notes on the deck of the battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay, America and Japan have been Batman and Robin.

If you want peace, have a war. Just make sure to have a good, prize-winning one.



New Scientist says the best anti-aging pill might be exercise.

IT COULD be the biggest killer you’ve never heard of: the weakening and loss of muscle that happens as we get older.

Muscle loss is no longer seen as just a side effect of disease and frailty – it’s also a prime cause. As well as contributing to falls, muscle loss has serious knock-on effects on metabolism (see “Life-saving muscle“). In future, muscle-boosting drugs could aid those unable to maintain muscle mass through exercise such as weight training. Although researchers stress this isn’t about bodybuilding, but keeping muscles in your limbs at a healthy level.

Muscle loss, also known as sarcopenia, is increasingly being seen as an important facet of ageing …

… What’s more, muscle is the only place the body can store amino acids – the building blocks of proteins – so when someone with little muscle becomes ill they have few reserves to call on.

Healthy muscle tissue is also a major consumer of glucose, so lack of muscle means the body can’t cope well with the surge of blood glucose after meals, which slowly nudges people down the road to diabetes. “People think of muscle as the body’s mover, but it’s really a huge metabolic organ,” says Daniel Moore of the University of Toronto, Canada.

October 13, 2014

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Hitherto the country’s worst president and one of the most contemptible politicians, now Jimmy Carter has decided to pile on the hapless clueless president. Power Line has the story. Will somebody please put Jimmah in a home where he can’t be interviewed?

When Jimmy Carter starts criticizing your foreign policy as weak and indecisive, you are getting to the bottom of the barrel. Jimmy unloaded on Barack Obama yesterday:

Former President Jimmy Carter is criticizing President Barack Obama’s Middle East policy, saying he has shifting policies and waited too long to take action against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

In an interview published Tuesday in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the 39th president said the Obama administration, by not acting sooner, allowed ISIL to build up its strength.

Carter said Obama’s air campaign against ISIL in Iraq has “a possibility of success,” provided that some troops are available on the ground. He did not specify whether he meant U.S. or other ground forces.

The former Democratic president and Georgia governor also said the president has shifted his Middle East policy on several occasions.

When you’ve lost Jimmy “Boots on the Ground” Carter, whom haven’t you lost? That’s got to be a short list. …



Peter Wehner has presidential sized worries.

… What is worth paying increasing attention to, I think, is the emotional state of the president. It’s in front of his donors that his most authentic feelings seem to surface, and it’s clear he’s becoming increasingly isolated, embittered, and thin skinned. His excuse making is now chronic and habitual. He’s even displaying some signs of paranoia. Everyone is against him.

Obama is becoming Nixonian.

The man who by a wide margin has received the most worshipful press coverage in at least the last half-century is complaining that the press is mistreating him. A president who routinely misleads the public on matters large and small, who first ran for president on the promise of unifying America but governs based on dividing it, and who allows the most important national-security matters to be decided by crass political considerations is blaming others for feeding cynicism. …



Ron Fournier writes on Panetta and his book.

It’s uncanny how the former CIA/Pentagon chief’s memoir and book-tour interviews channel the frustrations of Democrats who want the president to succeed but consider him a near-failure, who raised their concerns directly with the president or with his team, and were told to stop their worrying.

Actually, the White House calls it “bed-wetting.” Team Obama is dismissive of anybody who dares to say the emperor may need some clothes. Mocked and/or ignored by the White House, these Democrats send messages through journalists.

Not Panetta. He wrote a book. …


… In a column called, “Will the president listen to Leon Panetta?” Balz also urged the president and his team to “take to heart the critique from someone who has served both this president and the country loyally for many years.” I can’t imagine they will. Nor do most Democrats in this town have much hope for an outbreak of humility at the White House.

It starts with the president—this inability to accept criticism and learn from it—and so Obama seems destined to leave office no more comfortable or competent with the vague arts of leadership than he was six years ago.



Peggy Noonan gives the whip to Panetta.

… this book is smugly, grubbily partisan. Republicans aren’t bright and never good, though some— Bob Dole comes up—are reasonable. Republicans presidents tend to be weak or care only for the rich. He really, really hates Newt Gingrich . His headline on the entire Reagan era: “Poverty spread and deepened during the Reagan years.” Under Bill Clinton “the economy boomed,” “poverty shrunk,” and “leadership matters.” Reagan, in fairness, was less terrible than Mr. Panetta expected, “less ideological and partisan.” Mr. Clinton is “ravenously intelligent.” Mr. Panetta lauds Mr. Clinton’s “astonishing ability to sift through facts” and his “empathy for average people.” The compliments are at once lackeyish and patronizing.

In the epilogue Mr. Panetta seems to catch himself and writes, dictates or edits in the thought that he does not mean “to suggest that Democrats are good and Republicans are bad.” But that is what he repeatedly suggests.

Here’s what is disturbing: to think this is one of Washington’s wise men.

Here’s what’s true. At 76, at the end of a half-century-long, richly rewarded career, with perspective having presumably been gained and smallness washed away, in a book of history and reflection written at a time of high national peril, a lack of political graciousness, and the continued presence of a dumb and grinding partisanship, is unattractive to the point of unseemly. …

… Some say he wrote the book to help detach Hillary Clinton ’s fortunes from those of Mr. Obama. Maybe, but Mr. Panetta is savvy, shrewd and quick to see where things are going. I suspect he’s trying to detach his entire party’s fortunes from Mr. Obama. Reading this book and considering its timing, you get the impression that’s the real worthy battle on his mind.



Ed Morrissey says the president’s problems are all of his own creation.

… When the improvements don’t materialize, Presidents tend to start looking for new talent. Bush’s surge strategy was preceded by the resignation of the unpopular Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and crafted by his replacement Robert Gates. Cabinet members and White House staffers are almost always expendable when the boss needs a boost, a way to signal a change of direction that implies a shift in blame to those departing. 

Barack Obama is in trouble now, but in part because the opposite has happened. Gates and his successor Leon Panetta, both widely respected across the political spectrum, have published memoirs of their years in the Obama administration, and they have spared no feelings with their former commander in chief. 

Combined with a somewhat milder rebuke from Hillary Clinton’s memoirs, we have the unusual specter of having three members of the president’s national-security team blaming Obama for not listening to their advice on national security while the President is still in office. …



John Steele Gordon spots hypocrisy.

“If Republicans win, we know who they’ll be fighting for,” President Obama said on Tuesday. “Once again, the interests of billionaires will come before the needs of the middle class.”

Where did he say it? According to the New York Post, in the hyper-exclusive Conyers Farm area of very upscale Greenwich, Connecticut. Conyers Farm has ten-acre zoning. He was speaking at a fundraiser at the $26-million estate of a man named, believe it or not, Rich Richman. His audience consisted of people who had paid up to $32,400 a head to have dinner with him. He had flown up from New York City, where he had earlier attended a fundraiser hosted by George Soros (net worth $24 billion) and Paul Tudor Jones (net worth $4.3 billion). The flight was in a convoy of four helicopters and they landed at the Greenwich Polo Club. Polo, of course, is the most expensive sport you can play on land. (A polo field measures 300 by 160 yards, bigger than nine football fields.)

So the president was telling a bunch of millionaires and billionaires to pony up in order to prevent the country from being run for the benefit of millionaires and billionaires, the one segment of the American socioeconomic spectrum that has prospered exceedingly during the Obama administration.

And politicians wonder why people don’t like them or trust them.



Jonah Goldberg on the Columbian hooker kerfuffle and why the white house lied.

In news that must have left my friends at the New York Post — never mind the gang at The Daily Show – with a renewed confidence that ours is a just and beneficent God, the White House has been caught covering up a scandal involving a Cartagena hooker.

The phrase “Cartagena hooker” alone is a mellifluous gift to ink-stained wretches everywhere, but the revelation that the White House reassigned the alleged client of the aforementioned Andean call girl to the State Department’s office of “Global Women’s Issues” is the sort of flourish Tom Wolfe or Chris Buckley wouldn’t dare attempt as satire. …

… The underlying scandal is fairly minor. But if the White House would falsify records and lie to the public about this, is it really so hard to imagine that it would deceive the public – and Congress – about larger issues like, say, Benghazi? (Just this week, former Obama secretary of defense Leon Panetta told Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly that the infamous White House talking points on the attack were essentially bogus.)

But it also speaks to the seedy way Obama talks about politics generally. The president loves to denounce a cynical system where politics comes before the public good. He rails about a system where fat cats live by a different set of rules than the little guy, and money buys special treatment and access. But the way he operates runs completely counter to all that. Which is why the only person to come out of this scandal in an honorable light is the Cartagena hooker.



Ron Fournier too. 

I don’t have a strong opinion on Colombian hookers. The after-hours wonts of a 25-year-old White House volunteer make no difference to me. There are bigger stories better suited for the word “scandal” than the 2012 drinking-and-carousing embarrassment that cost 10 Secret Service agents their jobs.

But I don’t like government cover-ups, favoritism, and nepotism—all of which are exposed in the latest Washington Post investigation of the U.S. Secret Service. The story by Carol D. Leonnig and David Nakamura (“White House Knew of Possible Tie to Cartagena”) also hints at a rift between the president’s political and security teams that makes me worry about the safety of Barack Obama and future presidents.

“As nearly two dozen Secret Service agents and members of the military were punished or fired following a 2012 prostitution scandal in Colombia, Obama administration officials repeatedly denied that anyone from the White House was involved.

But new details drawn from government documents and interviews show that senior White House aides were given information at the time suggesting that a prostitute was an overnight guest in the hotel room of a presidential advance-team member—yet that information was never thoroughly investigated or publicly acknowledged.” …


The cartoonists are good today.

October 12, 2014

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Mark Steyn juxtaposes the nonchalant admittance to our country of an immigrant who would never leave, to harsh growling of the bureaucrats for the innocents abroad.

Thomas Eric Duncan has the distinction of being America’s Patient Zero – the first but not the last person to develop Ebola symptoms in the United States.

Is he a US citizen? No, he’s Liberian.

Is he a resident of the United States? No, he landed at Washington’s DullesAirport on September 20th, in order to visit his sister and having quit his job in Monrovia a few weeks earlier.

So he’s a single unemployed man with relatives in the US and no compelling reason to return to his native land. That alone is supposed to be cause for immigration scrutiny. …

… The legendary Gord Sinclair, longtime news director of CJAD in Montreal, had a ski place near the town of Jay in northern Vermont, and he invited his engineer on the show to come down and visit him. “What’s the purpose of your visit?” asked the agent at the small rural border post.

“Oh, just a relaxing weekend at my boss’ place,” said Gord’s colleague affably, and then chortled, “although I don’t know if it’ll be that relaxing. He’ll probably have me out in the yard chopping wood all day.”

So the immigration agent refused him entry on the grounds that he would be working illegally in the United States. …



Matthew Continetti, after reviewing the actions of our government, says it might be time to panic.

Deadly, irrational, and determined, the intruder snuck across a weakened perimeter. Eluding capture, the intruder was detained only after missteps and close calls. The spin began soon after the threat was isolated. Information was selectively leaked. Half-truths and untruths were uttered. Responsibility was avoided; privileges and credentials asserted; authority reasserted. Trust us. Remain calm. Don’t panic.

This is the template of recent events. A mental case jumps the White House fence. He makes it to the East Room before he’s tackled by an off-duty Secret Service agent. Initial statements turn out to be misleading or false. We discover that lapses in security are much worse than previously understood, that in recent memory the White House was sprayed with bullets, and that an armed man with a criminal record rode in an elevator with the president. The official in charge of the Secret Service, promoted for reasons of affirmative action, resigns hours after the White House expresses its confidence in her abilities. The overriding impression is of disarray, confusion, bad management, failed communication, anomie, disillusion, corruption, and secrecy. But do not worry. Things are under control.

The elevator? It was in the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, where the president told the American people that the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is not a threat to our country. President Obama said the chances of Ebola appearing in the United States are “extremely low.” If a carrier somehow finds his way to the 50 states, “We have world-class facilities and professionals ready to respond. And we have effective surveillance mechanisms in place.” Two weeks later, as Byron York points out, the president was proven utterly wrong.



In a WSJ OpEd, a climate scientist suggests much of the globalony worries have been overwrought.

At the recent United Nations Climate Summit, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned that “Without significant cuts in emissions by all countries, and in key sectors, the window of opportunity to stay within less than 2 degrees [of warming] will soon close forever.” Actually, this window of opportunity may remain open for quite some time. A growing body of evidence suggests that the climate is less sensitive to increases in carbon-dioxide emissions than policy makers generally assume—and that the need for reductions in such emissions is less urgent.

According to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, preventing “dangerous human interference” with the climate is defined, rather arbitrarily, as limiting warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial temperatures. The Earth’s surface temperatures have already warmed about 0.8 degrees Celsius since 1850-1900. This leaves 1.2 degrees Celsius (about 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit) to go.

In its most optimistic projections, which assume a substantial decline in emissions, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projects that the “dangerous” level might never be reached. In its most extreme, pessimistic projections, which assume heavy use of coal and rapid population growth, the threshold could be exceeded as early as 2040. But these projections reflect the effects of rising emissions on temperatures simulated by climate models, which are being challenged by recent observations. …



We learn from Fiscal Times another area subjected to white house lies was the student loan default rate.

Eager to broadcast some good news approaching the midterm elections, the Obama administration recently announced a welcome dip in student loan defaults, from 14.7 percent for the 2010 cohort (loans taken out in that year) to 13.7 percent for 2011. Policymakers, alarmed about how our trillion-dollar student loan burden and soaring default rates are undermining our economic growth, cheered the report.

Unfortunately, it turns out the numbers are bogus.  

In keeping with a White House that talks a good game on transparency but that is cloaked in secrecy, the Department of Education moved the goalposts at the last minute, changing how the default rates were calculated and thus sparing some colleges from tough penalties. It has so far refused to say which schools were given a reprieve, though it appears likely that black colleges were the major beneficiaries.

The academic world has been anxiously awaiting the Department of Education’s annual announcement on student loan defaults. As of this year, schools with three consecutive years of default rates above 30 percent (or one year above 40 percent) will risk losing federal financial aid. The review was expected to clobber the for-profit sector, but also to penalize some smaller schools characterized by higher-then-average student borrowing, such as numerous members of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, or HBCU. Last year 14 colleges in that organization had default rates above 30 percent. …



Wired tells us why the Nobel such a big deal and where it come from.  

The Nobel Prize is a big deal. Want to know how I know? Because the Nobels are constantly invoked to signal the importance of other awards: The Turing Award is the “Nobel Prize of Computers,” the Pritzker Prize is the “Nobel Prize of Architecture,” …

… It all began with a journalistic error. In 1888, a French newspaper mistakenly wrote that Alfred Nobel, inventor of dynamite, had died. It was actually his brother, Ludvig, who had passed. But, in addition to lackluster fact checking, the paper commemorated the event with defamatory prose: “Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday,” it wrote. Nobel, it is said, was crushed by the idea that he’d be remembered as a “merchant of death.” In order to regain control of his legacy, he willed his fortune to create an award that would recognize people who had made positive contributions to mankind. …



Max Boot celebrates deserving Nobel Peace Prize recipients.

The Nobel Peace Prize was easy to lampoon even before Barack Obama won the award at the start of his presidency for doing essentially nothing beyond giving a few grandiose speeches. …

… Some of the recipients have actually been warmongers, most notably North Vietnamese Foreign Minister Le Duc Tho and Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat. ,,, 

… But occasionally the Nobel committee gets it right—usually once a decade or so. This is one of those times, with the award going to Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan and Kailash Satyarthi of India. …



Late night humor from Andrew Malcolm.

Fallon: Chelsea Clinton’s new baby girl Charlotte has already said her first word: “Iowa.”

Conan: The NFL has announced the possible sites for its 2015 draft have been reduced to two. It’s either RikersIsland or San Quentin.

Fallon: Joe Biden was in Iowa recently. He spent two days there — one campaigning and another stuck in a corn maze.

Meyers: Vladimir Putin’s 62d birthday was the other day. When he got his presents he said, “You didn’t have to get me anything, I could have just taken it.”

October 9, 2014

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Bill Kristol says there is actually some value to this presidency – as a teachable moment.

How to introduce students to conservative thought? It’s hard. The colleges and universities aren’t interested. The media and popular culture are hostile. What if young Americans nonetheless become aware of the existence of such a thing as conservative thought? How to convey its varieties and complexities? Even tougher. You can write articles and put things online, but there’s an awful lot competing for young people’s attention these days.

But there’s good news nonetheless. Help has arrived. Its name? President Barack Obama.

The decomposition of the Obama presidency has created what Obama might call a teachable moment. This is, needless to say, a loathsome phrase, reeking as it does of liberal sanctimoniousness and professorial condescension. Still, who can resist appropriating it, if only for this one occasion? Because it is, really, a moment. It’s a moment when minds can be opened to conservative truths, ears can be induced to hear conservative insights, eyes can be fitted with contact lenses so as better to see conservative arguments. …



Along those lines, Jennifer Rubin says President Bystander has ruined things for inexperienced candidates.

… In a real sense, President Obama ruined things for the young, unaccomplished and inexperienced fast-talkers out there. Before he came along, wowed people with eloquence and then faltered again and again, voters in the 24/7 era had come to think of being president as, yes, commander in chief, but mostly as the giver of big speeches, a traveler abroad and the reader of a much-too-long State of the Union address. The Obama experience has reminded people that that is a fraction of what the president really does. And that’s where the unprepared president faltered. The bias toward governors — as we say, any governor over any senator — increases as the incumbent president collapses in rubble of his own making. Truth be told, anyone can write a speech for a candidate, but governing is hard and messy. …



Don Surber says;

… Every single thing this president has tried or promised has failed. The economy? Fail. Transparency in government? Fail. Easing racial tension? Fail. Ending war? Fail. Winning Afghanistan? Fail.

Hell, he could not even pull off the Beer Summit between Professor Gates and the white cop. It ended with no one conceding anything.

The only two things he got right in nearly 6 years is his 2009 NCAA bracket and killing that fly on TV.

The Democratic plan was simple: Hide behind the black guy, pass a bunch of socialist crapola and wait for the crowd to applaud. Anyone who doesn’t like it will be branded a racist.

There was just one problem with the Democratic Party programs: They didn’t work.

I hope to hell the election is referendum on this president’s policies because not one has worked. Not one.



In the Corner, John Fund asks if the prez is his party’s worst enemy.

Is President Obama subconsciously sabotaging his own party in the mid-term elections? He took to the stage at NorthwesternUniversity in Chicago yesterday to defend his economic record and declare: “I am not on the ballot this fall. Michelle’s pretty happy about that. But make no mistake: these policies are on the ballot. Every single one of them.”

The Washington Post noted that those words must have sent a chill down the spine of several Democratic Senate candidates from red states who have “spent much of the campaign insisting that this election is NOT about Barack Obama, that it is instead about a choice between themselves and their opponents.” You can bet Obama’s words will find their way into 30-second attack ads against those Democrats soon enough.



Power Line says perhaps he doesn’t like his party.

What to make of Obama’s head-scratchingly counterproductive statement that while he is not the on ballot next month, his policies are—every single one of them. Every red state Democrat is running for the hills, because they all know they are in trouble more because of Obama’s policies than Obama himself. If Obama’s approval ratings were based solely on his policies alone rather than the residual respect many Americans wish to maintain for all presidents, and especially our first black president, he might be down in the 20s somewhere.

Here’s one hypothesis: Maybe Obama really isn’t a very good politician after all. Sure, he was a great candidate in 2008, and lucky enough to run against a Republican with even more marginal political skills in 2012 (thus becoming the first president ever re-elected with fewer votes than his first election), but as Noemie Emery pointed out in 2011, look closely and you’ll see someone who isn’t very good at politics and doesn’t even like politics very much. …



And John Fund says many Dems are bailing. 

Democrats are still reeling from President Obama’s statement last week that “I’m not on the ballot this fall . . . but make no mistake, these policies are on the ballot — every single one of them.” Republican attack ads are already making hay with that invitation to send Obama a message in next month’s election.

A growing number of Democrats are already speaking as if the Obama administration is a spent force, with no agenda it can reasonably implement in its last two years. “It is safe to say that Obama has been a huge disappointment,” admitted Democratic columnist Kirsten Powers on the Hugh Hewitt radio show last week. “I really don’t think there’s any comparison between him and Bill Clinton. I don’t think we’re even talking about the same universe.” …



Victor Davis Hanson says now Harding is looking good.

Many have described the Obama departure from the 70-year-old bipartisan postwar foreign policy of the United States as reminiscent of Jimmy Carter’s failed 1977–81 tenure. There is certainly the same messianic sense of self, the same naïveté, and the same boasts of changing the nature of America, as each of these presidents was defining himself as against supposedly unpopular predecessors. But the proper Obama comparison is not Carter, but rather Warren G. Harding. By that I mean not that Obama’s scandals have matched Harding’s, but rather that by any fair standard they have now far exceeded them and done far more lasting damage — and without Obama’s offering achievements commensurate with those that occasionally characterized Harding’s brief, failed presidency.

The lasting legacy of Obama will be that he has largely discredited the idea of big government, of which he was so passionate an advocate. Almost every major agency of the federal government, many of them with a hallowed tradition of bipartisan competence, have now been rendered either dysfunctional or politicized — or both — largely because of politically driven appointments of unqualified people, or ideological agendas that were incompatible with the agency’s mission.

The list of scandals is quite staggering. In aggregate, it makes Harding’s Teapot Dome mess seem minor in comparison. …



WSJ reviews a new history of Washington concentrating on the years between the end of the war and the adoption of the Constitution.

… If never considered exactly wilderness years, the span between the end of the war and Washington’s presidency is often seen as a hiatus in which the Virginia planter put his estate in order and then shed legitimacy on the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia solely by his taciturn presence. But Mr. Larson, a history professor at PepperdineUniversity, engagingly argues that the stretch between 1783 and 1789 was as important to Washington—and to America—as all that preceded and followed it.

It is not that Washington wasn’t quite sincere in his wish to recede from public life and, as he wrote, “become a private citizen of America, on the banks of the Potowmac; where under my own Vine and my own fig tree—free from the bustle of a camp & intrigues of a Court, I shall view the busy world, ‘in the calm lights of mild philosophy.’ ”

But once he got under his fig tree he was vexed with worries about his fledgling nation. At first these took the form simply of wanting his former troops to be paid, and not in the increasingly debased paper money that the new states were spewing out. He had fought for his country from New England to the Carolinas, and his travails had given him a truly national vision. He wrote to Congress, then trying to wield the feeble powers established by the Articles of Confederation, that “it is indispensable to the happiness of the individual States, that there should be lodged somewhere, a Supreme Power to regulate and govern the general concerns of the ConfederatedRepublic.” …

October 8, 2014

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Often we have highlighted the trillion dollar student debt mainly because of the corrosive effects it haves on many lives. WSJ OpEd points out the risk coming from the fact many of the loans will not be repaid and taxpayers will be on the hook.

Let’s call her Alice. One of us has known her for years. She earned her Ph.D. in the mid-1990s when academic jobs were scarce, and she wound up an academic gypsy. She left graduate school to take a one-year full-time academic appointment, but then found herself cobbling together part-time teaching jobs at different community colleges in a large metropolitan area, earning a couple of thousand dollars for each course she teaches. She is a dedicated teacher, but her annual income is between $30,000 and $40,000.

Alice owes $270,000 in student loans. She only borrowed about $70,000 to pay for grad school, but she’s never been able to afford much in the way of payments, and after consolidating her loans and accumulating interest charges for years, she’s watched her debt roughly quadruple.

If Alice taught students in a low-income high school or was a recent graduate, she would be eligible for various programs that would allow her to discharge at least some of her debt. But since she graduated at a time before income-based repayment and loan-forgiveness programs, there is no federal program to help established part-time community-college faculty discharge their old student-loan debts.

In fact, the federal government is quite content with Alice’s situation. The $270,000 she owes is carried on the government’s books as an asset. The government reasons that, since it is nearly impossible to discharge student loans through bankruptcy, it will eventually collect all of the more than $1 trillion in federal student loan debt that Alice—and millions of other student borrowers—owe.

Not likely. …

… According to the Department of Education, students borrow over $100 billion annually, and the figure rises with each new academic year.

This is a big problem. Unexpected write-offs of billions of unpaid student loans will confront Americans with a set of ugly choices: Will we raise taxes to cover the losses—which is impossible to imagine in today’s political climate? Do we cut other federal spending—which is nearly as unlikely since we’re talking about substantial sums? Or do we significantly increase the national debt. This will be a continuing crisis; each year’s increased borrowing will require confronting the same choices in future years. …



More on our land of perverse incentives comes from Michael Barone as he spotlights more government failure in the home mortgage market.

I have written frequently that I estimate that one-third of the mortgage foreclosures in the 2007-10 period were of Hispanic homebuyers. Very many had been granted mortgages, despite bad or dubious credit, by lenders who then fobbed them off on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac or other mortgage securitizers, in the meantime gaining brownie points with regulators for lending to “minorities.”  …

… This was an enormous policy failure, attributable both to the Clinton and the Bush administrations. …

… Now the Urban Institute and the Obama administration are pushing for more mortgages for blacks and Hispanics with subpar credit ratings. Haven’t America, the world and the intended beneficiaries already suffered enough from this perhaps well-intentioned but indubitably misguided policy?



The globalony folks are in trouble. Rather than charismatic polar bears, now they’re shedding tears for the ugly walrus. Gail Collins, a reliable left liberal voice for the NY Times columned on the walrus haulout in Alaska. She claims it happened because of lack of polar ice. Turns out it happens every year. It’s a walrus convention. Power Line posts on silly Gail.

… Like the other manifestations of climate hysteria, the walrus crisis is entirely fabricated. First, let’s note what how great it is that you can find 35,000 Pacific walruses in one place. It is a sign of a thriving wildlife population, estimated to have doubled since the 1950s.

Climate Depot has a thorough debunking of the walrus hype, beginning with Dr. Susan Crockford, a zoologist:

The attempts by WWF and others to link this event to global warming is self-serving nonsense that has nothing to do with science…this is blatant nonsense and those who support or encourage this interpretation are misinforming the public.

Walruses have always swarmed on land during the fall. This is called a “haulout.” In 2007, Wikipedia said, in its entry on walruses:

In the non-reproductive season (late summer and fall) walruses tend to migrate away from the ice and form massive aggregations of tens of thousands of individuals on rocky beaches or outcrops.

That portion of the walrus entry was recently deleted. Hmm, wonder why?

Walrus haulouts have been observed for hundreds of years: “Dating back to at least 1604, there have been reports of large walrus gatherings or haul outs.”

So the alleged walrus crisis is more hot air. …



John Steele Gordon has a walrus post too. 

The global warming crowd has been increasingly embarrassed by the fact that while their beloved computer models have been predicting ever higher temperatures, there has been no global warming for the last 18 years. Where could the heat be hiding? The favorite explanation for several years now has been that it is in the deep ocean, below 2,000 meters (1.24 miles), that the heat was being stored.

Well, so much for that theory. NASA announced today that a study has shown no warming in the deep ocean between the years 2005 and 2013. If the computer models can’t even predict the past, why would anyone, without a political agenda at least, pay any attention to what they predict about the future?

Meanwhile, Gail Collins in the Times is reporting a walrus crisis: …

… So while liberals are declaring imminent walrus catastrophe, my only reaction on seeing the photographs was a profound gratitude I wasn’t downwind of 35,000 walruses.



Now lefties have a walrus myth and these myths have a half-life of centuries. Ann Coulter posts on other enduring myths.

… Second, once the MSM figured out how to blame a white guy for a black athlete punching his fiancee, and the only news was about Ray Rice and — the true villain — NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, MSNBC’s Toure repeated the old chestnut about emergency room admissions for domestic violence spiking on Super Bowl Sundays.

As I have noted at least a half-dozen times this was a nonsense statistic invented by feminists and then cited as fact by a slew of major news outlets, culminating in a public service announcement during the 1993 Super Bowl that reminded viewers: “Domestic violence is a crime!” Finally, Washington Post reporter Ken Ringle, realizing that he was, in fact, a reporter, asked, Where’d you get that figure?

He called all the experts who had been cited as sources for the statistic. All of them told him it wasn’t true.

“That’s not what we found at all,” said Janet Katz, professor of sociology and criminal justice and an author of one oft-cited study allegedly establishing the Super Bowl-wife-beating nexus. She said football games bore no relationship to emergency room admissions for domestic violence.

A week after Toure recycled this hoax from the ’90s, MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski said on “Morning Joe”: “Super Bowl Sunday has the highest rate of domestic violence.”

So at least they correct their mistakes quickly over there.

Finally, The Washington Post’s Carol Leonnig is doggedly pushing the hoax about Obama getting more threats than any previous president. …

October 7, 2014

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Now that the Gaza fight with Hamas is behind us a bit, Commentary reports on who prevailed.

The story of the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza in the summer of 2014 is not a complicated one. In June, Hamas operatives activated long-in-the-works plans to escalate terror operations in the West Bank and military attacks from Gaza. Israel responded by launching Operation Brother’s Keeper and then Operation Protective Edge, which were aimed respectively at eroding Hamas’s terror infrastructure in the West Bank and its military infrastructure in Gaza. By the middle of August, Jerusalem announced that Israeli security forces had secured the strategic goals of both campaigns.

This is what happened. And yet the simplicity of this account bothers a great many people. There remains sustained disagreement on the most basic origins of the violence. There remains substantial debate regarding the course of the war in Gaza. There should be little disagreement: 1) Hamas caused the violence; 2) Israel prevailed in the military conflict. Now, to say this isn’t to say anything definitive. Everything is not going to be just fine in the wake of the summer of 2014. Hamas will still pose a threat; Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians will remain controversial.

But in fact, Israel’s strategic position—with no army in the Middle East capable of launching a full-scale invasion and with a Palestinian leader who at least says out loud that the Jewish state is not going anywhere—has never been stronger. The country emerged from the summer’s violence more secure rather than less secure. …


… A full tally of the destruction that Hamas brought to itself and to Gaza will not be possible to know for months. Preliminary reports suggest near-total devastation of Hamas’s infrastructure. Eighty percent of the group’s projectile arsenal was depleted. Many of the rockets were destroyed by Israeli airstrikes, and almost all the rest either landed in empty fields, were swatted down by the anti-projectile system Iron Dome, or fell short and landed in Gaza. Hamas’s 32 attack tunnels were destroyed after Israel launched the operation’s ground phase on July 17. Only two days earlier, the group’s leaders had rejected a cease-fire that would have preserved that infrastructure; they instead deployed a group of commandos through a tunnel with the intention of raiding a small kibbutz.

At least three of Hamas’s very top military leaders were killed in the closing days of the war. They had made a frankly inexplicable decision to leave their underground bunkers after breaking yet another ceasefire. By the time Israel was through, roughly 1,000 Hamas fighters had been killed. Fully zero percent of Hamas’s spectacular attacks on civilians—to be conducted via long-range rockets, drones, hang gliders, and tunnels—succeeded.

And Israel? A total of 72 Israelis—66 soldiers and 6 civilians—died. Israel’s international airport was shut down for just over a day, which was Hamas’s strategic high-water mark.

Even this grim accounting fails to convey the scope of Hamas’s military debacle. The nature of the fight—the how’s and where’s—was entirely controlled by Israel. Hamas was capable of forcing the Israelis to fight, but there their control ended. The IDF’s July 17 ground invasion lasted precisely as long as Israeli leaders wanted to stay in the territory. After Hamas scuttled an 11th attempted cease-fire, the Israelis began on August 19 what they described as an “extraordinary escalation,” targeting top military leaders and leveling at least three multistory command-and-control centers.

Hamas capitulated within a week, accepting the very same terms that had been on the table for more than a month and that had been widely considered to be favorable to Israel and humiliating to the Palestinian faction. Victory parades were held in Gaza that fooled only the willingly fooled. Abbas called on Hamas to admit that it had been soundly beaten and adjust accordingly. Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh crawled out of his bunker and returned to his home, which had been destroyed during the war. …


… Israel’s attention has been turned to the military threat posed by attack tunnels, and this focus may avert a catastrophe in another war. Israel has a remarkable record of developing amazing technological solutions to asymmetric threats, but only after it has been forced to pay attention. Israeli intelligence knew for the better part of a decade that Yasir Arafat was preparing for a war that would be waged by terrorists infiltrating from the West Bank. But only after waves of suicide bombers had attacked family pizzerias and Passover banquet halls did the Israelis innovate and build their high-tech security fence. Similarly, Israel knew that Hezbollah was importing tens of thousands of rockets and missiles during the early 2000s. Only after northern Israel was saturated by Hezbollah rockets and missiles did Jerusalem begin seriously pursuing missile-defense technology. Hezbollah has undoubtedly dug its own network underneath Israel’s northern border in anticipation of war. Israel has now set to work and is focused on protecting itself from below as well as above. Hezbollah and its Iranian sponsors will not thank Hamas for having awakened the Jewish state.

This is what victory looks like. It is not total victory, but total victory was never sought. In the summer of 2014, Israel was forced to defend itself—and it did so, brilliantly.



Matthew Continetti posts on the useful idiots in the media as they reported the Gaza conflict.

… What has become clear over the summer is that there are really two wars going on. There is the real war, the war that is happening in Gaza and Israel. It is a serious operation: There are casualties, injuries, and loss of property. But it is happening for a reason, and the reason is that terrorists cannot be allowed to wage an insurgency behind human shields. That is why the Israeli and American publics are united in support. Like all wars, Operation Protective Edge will have consequences intended—the degradation of Hamas rockets, the closure of Hamas tunnels—and unintended. But Israel will protect itself. It must.

Then there is the second war, the pseudo-war that is happening on television. This is a war divorced from context. Cause and effect are unrelated. Disinformation is laundered through a supposedly objective media. In the pseudo-war, peace will come if only Israel lifts its blockade of Gaza, if only Israel negotiates with an entity that denies its right to exist. In the pseudo-war, the leaders of Hamas receive the same treatment as the leaders of Israel. Television personalities who go home to luxe condos in Manhattan lecture Israelis on the importance of avoiding civilian casualties. In the pseudo-war, fighting to protect the Jewish home isn’t heroism. Heroism is announcing one’s disappointment in Israel’s failure to live up to utopian standards of conduct.

The war that is actually taking place in space and time is more significant than the war related to us by images and sounds. It is a war Israel can win. But the biased, credulous, facile, immature reporting of the pseudo-war undermines Israel’s campaign. And worse, it weakens the West’s moral clarity, and thus our right to self-defense. It fosters the hazardous illusion that Hamas and, by extension, groups with the same nihilistic and terroristic aims as Hamas want the same thing that Israel and the West want: peace. For if Israel is to treat Hamas as an equal, why shouldn’t the United States treat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria as an equal?

For Hamas and its fellow terrorists, the news business has become what Lenin said liberals in the West always were: a bunch of useful idiots.



Jonathan Tobin posts on the president’s conflict with Israel.

President Obama gritted his teeth yesterday and sat down for a meeting in the White House with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. Even at the best of times, the president isn’t good at faking bonhomie and there was little evidence of the usual pretense of good fellowship during the media portion of the session. He doesn’t like Netanyahu, but given his current emphasis on the war against ISIS and the utter collapse of the peace process with the Palestinians, Obama had little choice but to try and downplay his difference with the prime minister. Yet as a scathing State Department statement about Jerusalem issued later in the day revealed, the administration’s conflict with Israel has been sidelined but is far from finished. …

… If there is anything we have learned about Barack Obama in the last six years it is that he is not a man prepared to admit mistakes (just ask Jim Clapper). For relations between Israel and the United States to really improve—as opposed to the arguments just cooling down every now and then—it will require the president to admit that his idée fixe about settlements won’t bring peace or help the U.S. rally allies in the fight against genuine threats to American security. He will also need to realize that his never-flagging desire for engagement with Iran is bringing the world closer to the nuclear brink, not averting that danger.

For now, Obama’s feud with Netanyahu is on his back burner as he tries to avoid disaster in Iraq and Syria and his party is poised to be beaten in the midterm elections. But it will be back soon. Israelis should be prepared for being back in his cross hairs sooner rather than later.



Speaking of useful idiots, a professor at BowdoinCollege reviews the latest from Doris Kearns Goodwin.

For political scientist turned historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, history is all about telling stories, but how many times can a story be told before it becomes hackneyed? The challenge, especially when puffing up liberal icons as she’s done in previous books on Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt (for which she won the Pulitzer Prize), the Kennedys, or her old boss Lyndon Johnson, is to find some new angle that will bring the oft-told tales to life again. She managed this trick brilliantly in Team of Rivals (2005), a Lincoln Prize-winner and the basis for Steven Spielberg’s hit film, in which a wider focus on Abraham Lincoln’s contentious cabinet brought the president’s shrewd statesmanship into starker relief—even if she mistook him for a liberal. In her new bestseller, The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism, Goodwin weaves together two stories—three if you count the wives’ tale—that make vivid how the American public came to support the far-reaching reforms of the Progressive era introduced by T.R. This is story-telling with a moral, for her “greatest hope” is that readers in the age of Obama will be inspired to support reforms that will help “bring our country closer to its ancient ideals.” What precisely these “ancient ideals” are she never says, but before one has read very far into the book, it becomes clear that they bear a remarkable resemblance to 20th-century progressivism. …

October 6, 2014

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We still have to bring items on the fools running our governments. John Fund writes on the administration’s chaos and says Washington folks are beginning to believe a lot of the disaster comes from Valerie and Michelle.  

Are significant chunks of the mainstream media in despair over Barack Obama? This past week, Obama used 60 Minutes to attempt to shift blame for the failure to anticipate the rise of ISIS, endured a cover-up of White House security disasters by the Secret Service, and saw a government-agency report that he had skipped nearly 60 percent of his intelligence briefings. 

The reaction from some longtime Obama defenders was swift and harsh. “President Obama this week committed professional suicide,” wrote former CNN host Piers Morgan, now an editor-at-large for Britain’s Daily Mail.

He called Obama’s throwing of the intelligence community under the bus a “shameless, reprehensible display of buck-passing” that will result in some analysts’ exacting “cold-blooded revenge on Obama by drip-feeding negative stories about him until he’s gone.” As for the Secret Service fiasco, Morgan said it was “no wonder the Secret Service gets complacent when The Boss exudes complacency from every pore.”

Chris Matthews of MSNBC, the former White House speechwriter who once rapturously recounted that he “felt this thrill going up my leg” as Obama spoke, didn’t hold back on Wednesday’s Hardball. “Let’s get tough here,” Matthews began, as he lambasted Obama for being “intellectually lazy” and “listening to the same voices all the time.” He even named names, saying that Obama had become “atrophied into that little world of people like Valerie Jarrett and Mrs. Obama.” …




Law prof David Bernstein writes in Commentary on the administration’s constitutional violations.

During his first presidential run, Barack Obama repeatedly promised to roll back the imperial presidency that had grown inexorably over the past half century. “The biggest problems that we’re facing right now,” he explained, “have to do with George Bush trying to bring more and more power into the executive branch and not go through Congress at all. And that’s what I intend to reverse when I’m president of the United States of America.”

Then he was elected. Since 2009, Obama has claimed unprecedented power for himself while advancing a novel argument about his duty as president to ignore the separation of powers and act unilaterally to overcome congressional gridlock. “We can’t wait,” was his refrain—though he has, of course, been unable to cite a “we can’t wait” clause in the Constitution in defense of his actions. …


… The rule of law has suffered in many other ways under Obama, with his administration’s repeatedly having shown contempt for the norms of our legal and political process, including an extraordinary refusal to cooperate with congressional committees charged with overseeing various parts of the executive branch. The perpetrators of the IRS scandal, one of the most egregious misuses of government authority in recent times, have escaped not only punishment but also, for the most part, investigation by the Justice Department. Various government bodies have advanced radical theories of government authority and have been reversed 9–0 in an embarrassing series of Supreme Court defeats. …


… Ideology aside, another reason that President Obama has been especially aggressive in pursuing initiatives of dubious legality or even near-certain illegality is that he’s been able to get away with it. Previous presidents who engaged in wrongdoing have had members of their own political party who were willing to stand up and say so. Many Republicans turned on Richard Nixon as the Watergate scandal unfolded. More recently, Democratic Senator Joseph Lieberman strongly criticized Bill Clinton for carrying on an affair in the White House and then lying under oath about it. …


… The traditional media establishment—newspapers such as the New York Times and the Washington Post, National Public Radio, the network news operations—could have served as a check on the Obama administration’s abuses. But they have largely given up their role as an independent watchdog, having been utterly tamed by the felt need to support the political agenda of coastal liberalism. …


… One also can’t discount arrogance as a factor in the Obama administration’s lawlessness. Of course, all presidents are arrogant; you have to be to think that you should lead the wealthiest and most powerful country the world has ever seen. Obama certainly is not exempt from this generalization. In 2006, he told a staffer: “I think that I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters. I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m gonna’ think I’m a better political director than my political director.”

But the arrogance I’m talking about goes well beyond Obama’s personality. It pervades the administration. As a leading (but anonymous) left-wing activist told the Huffington Post’s Sam Stein: “These guys are stunningly arrogant. They really believe that their s—doesn’t smell, that they have all the answers. And that arrogance continues to hurt them.”

The source of this arrogance lies, at least in part, in the attitudes of post-1970s graduates of elite universities. The Obama generation of liberals, including many of the president’s top aides and appointees, believe in meritocracy, but a meritocracy based not solely on demonstrated achievement, but on where one went to college and graduate school as well.

The cult of the academic overachiever turned up early in the Obama administration. In early 2009, the New York Times profiled Brian Deese, a 31-year-old Obama appointee. As the Times put it, Deese found himself in his first government job in charge of “dismantling General Motors and rewriting the rules of American capitalism.” As the article pointed out, Deese had no prior experience with the auto industry, was “neither a formally trained economist nor a business school graduate,” and had “never spent much time flipping through the endless studies about the future of the American and Japanese auto industries.”

So what made him qualified for such an important position? Well, he was a not-quite-graduate of the elite YaleLawSchool and had impressed a lot of people in the Obama campaign and Democratic policy circles with his quick mind. While Deese is surely very bright, it’s hard even in retrospect to understand why anyone would think that he was competent to make life-or-death decisions for the auto industry—unless you understand that in today’s elite East Coast culture, just being very smart and impressing the right people with your intellect and credentials means you are unofficially qualified to do just about anything. But only, of course, if you share the prevailing set of political and cultural values. …


… President Obama and many of his advisers are part of a liberal intellectual class whose members typically consider respect for the Constitution and the rule of law as anachronisms at best and racist, patriarchal, and reactionary at worst. Obama came into office with a huge congressional majority, and what he and his supporters thought was a mandate to fundamentally move American society to the progressive left. Conservatives, however, have thwarted this ambition, especially after they took over the House in 2010. These same conservatives, meanwhile, are held in contempt by elite progressives. Faced with the prospect of compromising with conservatives, or “triangulating” as Bill Clinton did, Obama instead chose to unilaterally pursue as many of his policy goals as possible—and the Constitution and rule of law be damned.




Jonathan Tobin posts on a little mistake by Biden and a six year long mistake by the president.

For most casual observers, it will be filed under the category of “Biden being Biden.” But the story of the apology to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan tells us more about the Obama administration’s dysfunctional foreign policy than it does about the vice president’s predilection for saying embarrassing things. But rather than apologizing to Erdoğan for telling the truth about the Turks facilitating the rise of ISIS by letting Islamists enter Syria, it is Biden’s boss, President Obama, who should admit that it was his foolish decisions that did more to create the disaster in Iraq and Syria that allowed the rise of Islamist terrorists. …

… while the president blamed U.S. intelligence for failing to anticipate ISIS gaining strength—something that is a blatant lie since it warned Obama of the dangers of the course he was following—it is more than obvious that the administration chose to let the Turks run amok because of its reluctance to face up to the need for America to lead in the region. By ignoring the advice of his more sober senior advisers like Leon Panetta and Robert Gates, and pulling out of Iraq and dithering on Syria while he was cozying up to Erdoğan, it was Obama who created the power vacuum that gave ISIS its opportunity. …




The president says the elections are all about his policies so Scott Brown puts that in an ad. Jennifer Rubin with the post.

… “I am not on the ballot this fall. Michelle’s pretty happy about that. But make no mistake: these policies are on the ballot. Every single one of them. This isn’t a political speech, and I’m not going to tell you who to vote for — even though I suppose it is kind of implied.”

No doubt they are high-fiving one another in GOP Senate campaign offices around the country. There is more than a month to go, and the GOP by no means has the Senate majority locked up. But thanks to Obama, the party’s job just got a whole lot easier.



Another reporter is man-handled by the Dems. Story from Power Line

Meg Kissinger, a veteran reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, was assigned to cover Michelle Obama’s speech in Milwaukee on behalf of Mary Burke, the Democratic candidate for governor of Wisconsin. As she has done for the past 35 years, Kissinger tried to talk to people in the crowd.

She was not allowed to do so. Kissinger stated on her Facebook page:

“Assigned to cover Michelle Obama’s speech today and was told by a Mary Burke aide and one for the White House that I could not speak to the people in the crowd.

To say that I was creeped out is an understatement. …”



Andrew Malcolm with late night humor.

Fallon: More bad news for the president. Chicago reverses its plan to name a high school after President Obama, because it received multiple complaints from people in the community. I guess parents were afraid their kids would spend eight years at the school and STILL not get anything done.

SNL: New grandmother Hillary Clinton said she couldn’t be any happier about daughter Chelsea’s new baby unless the baby was a Latina in a swing state.

Fallon: Obama says he will “degrade and ultimately destroy” the terror group ISIS. Asked how, he said, “I’m gonna build their website.”

October 5, 2015

Click on WORD or PDF for full content



So the students at a nothingburger college in Vermont invite a convicted cop-killer to be their graduation speaker. Pickerhead always said free speech makes it easy to spot the idiots. David Harsanyi posts on the controversy.

The perverted habit of glorifying people like Mumia Abu-Jamal has been part of tedious campus “radicalism” for the past 45 years. Still, I can’t get too worked up over the fact that a bunch of twits at GoddardCollege invited a murderer to their school. For one, these sorts of incidents help me compile a list of schools for my kids to avoid.

What is interesting, though, is how academics and administrators continue to rationalize moronic behavior:

“As a reflection of Goddard’s individualized and transformational educational model,” Goddard College Interim President Bob Kenny explained, “…choosing Mumia as their commencement speaker, to me, shows how this newest group of Goddard graduates expresses their freedom to engage and think radically and critically in a world that often sets up barriers to do just that.”

Oh, where to begin? …



American Interest on the transformative power of shale.

Eleven years ago, energy majors Qatar Petroleum, Exxon Mobil, and Conoco Phillips came together to construct a $2 billion liquified natural gas import facility in Texas. The enormous GoldenPass terminal was meant to regassify liquified gas being shipped overseas, but lately it hasn’t seen much action. Thanks to the shale boom, the United States is flush with natural gas—fracking has destroyed the need for imports. Now, in an attempt to salvage some of their investment, Exxon Mobil and Qatar Petroleum are investing an estimated $10 billion in converting the import facility into one suitable for gas exports. …

… You’d be hard-pressed to find a better example of the disruptive power of shale energy. …



The Chamber of Commerce says the shale boom makes the US the world’s top petroleum producer.

The International Energy Agency confirms what we’ve known for a while: The United States is the world’s top petroleum producer. The American Interest’s Walter Russell Mead quotes from a Financial Times story [subscription required]:

“US production of oil and related liquids such as ethane and propane was neck-and-neck with Saudi Arabia in June and again in August at about 11.5m barrels a day, according to the International Energy Agency, the watchdog backed by rich countries.

With US production continuing to boom, its output is set to exceed Saudi Arabia’s this month or next for the first time since 1991. [...]

Rising oil and gas production has caused the US trade deficit in energy to shrink, and prompted a wave of investment in petrochemicals and other related industries. [...] It is also having an impact on global security. Imports are expected to provide just 21 per cent of US liquid fuel consumption next year, down from 60 per cent in 2005. …”



While we’re having a boom, Europe is pretending to be green. American.com with the story. 

“Germany produces half of energy with solar.” That was the recent headline on a German website of news in English, and it would have duly impressed anybody whose understanding of energy matters extends to just such headlines. But the headline, totally wrong, was also a perfect example of why it is so important to deconstruct the reports about green Europe.

Analysis by the Fraunhofer ISE research institute showed that the recent peak of Germany’s solar energy usage lasted for only 1 hour, and that the record share (50.6 percent) was due not only to hot, sunny weather but that day being a public holiday with lower than normal demand — and, most fundamentally, to the fact that solar and wind have legal priority over fossil fuels and when available must be used to the maximum possible extent. But the key error of that headline’s claim is that it was not half of energy use (Energieverbrauch), it was half of electricity production (Stormerzeugung). And in Germany, as in any modern economy, electricity accounts for only a fraction of overall energy use, known as total primary energy supply, which consists of all fuels (be they fossil or biofuels) and all electricity produced by nuclear reactors, water and wind turbines, solar photovoltaics (PV), and geothermal steam.

So how green is Germany’s and Europe’s energy supply in reality? …



Nature tells us about new maps of the ocean floor provided by satellites.

As though someone had pulled a plug in the oceans and drained them away, a sea-floor map has exposed thousands of never-before-seen underwater mountains and ridges. The map — generated by the highest-resolution gravity model ever made for the oceans — will guide deep-sea research for years to come.

An international team of researchers led by David Sandwell, an oceanographer at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California, publishes the map in the 3 October issue of Science. The team created it using data mostly from two satellites: CryoSat-2, from the European Space Agency, and Jason-1, from NASA and the French space agency CNES.

Both satellites sought to chart the planet, but with different goals. The ongoing CryoSat-2 mission studies the polar ice caps, whereas Jason-1 studied changes in sea level before it was turned off last year. Both probes carried radar altimeters, instruments that measure the precise distance between the satellite and the surface of the land or ocean below. …



Nautilus tells us about the sound so loud it circled the earth four times.

On 27 August 1883, the Earth let out a noise louder than any it has made since.

It was 10:02 AM local time when the sound emerged from the island of Krakatoa, which sits between Java and Sumatra in Indonesia. It was heard 1,300 miles away in the Andaman and Nicobar islands (“extraordinary sounds were heard, as of guns firing”); 2,000 miles away in New Guinea and Western Australia (“a series of loud reports, resembling those of artillery in a north-westerly direction”); and even 3,000 miles away in the Indian Ocean island of Rodrigues, near Mauritius (“coming from the eastward, like the distant roar of heavy guns.”) In all, it was heard by people in over 50 different geographical locations, together spanning an area covering a thirteenth of the globe.

Think, for a moment, just how crazy this is. If you’re in Boston and someone tells you that they heard a sound coming from New York City, you’re probably going to give them a funny look. But Boston is a mere 200 miles from New York. What we’re talking about here is like being in Boston and clearly hearing a noise coming from Dublin, Ireland. Travelling at the speed of sound (766 miles or 1,233 kilometers per hour), it takes a noise about 4 hours to cover that distance. This is the most distant sound that has ever been heard in recorded history. …



Good news for couch potatoes. BioSpace says just a small amount of weight bearing exercise can improve memory.

… “Our study indicates that people don’t have to dedicate large amounts of time to give their brain a boost,” said Lisa Weinberg, the Georgia Tech graduate student who led the project .

Although the study used weight exercises, Weinberg notes that resistance activities such as squats or knee bends would likely produce the same results. In other words, exercises that don’t require the person to be in good enough shape to bike, run or participate in prolonged aerobic exercises. …



We close with a sweet story. In a WSJ interview, actress Rene Russo talks about growing up broke in blue collar Burbank.

I grew up in Burbank—but not the Burbank of valet parking and TV studios. In the late 1950s, there was a small apartment complex on Elmwood Avenue that rented mostly to families on welfare. I lived there from age 3 to 11 and again from 14 to 18 with my mother, Shirley, and my younger sister, Toni. It wasn’t pretty. …

… I dropped out of high school when I was in the 10th grade. My sister was in the eighth grade and dropped out, too. I took a job near our apartment at an eyeglass factory inspecting frames.

Then the oddest thing happened. In June 1972, I went with friends to see the Rolling Stones at the Los Angeles Forum. After the concert, as we crossed through the parking lot, a guy in a brown Mercedes stopped in the middle of the street and got out. He came up to me and asked if I had ever modeled. I could see he had a woman in the car and was well dressed, so I took the card he held out. He said, “Have your mother call me,” which put me at ease.

Me, a model? Crazy, I thought. When I got home, I told my mother. She called the guy—an agent named John Crosby—and we went to see him at his office on Sunset Blvd. …

… As soon as the modeling checks started coming in 1974, I began saving to get my mom out of Elmwood. Within a year, I was able to move her into a rental apartment in Burbank near StudioCity. Two years later in 1977, Toni and I decided to send my mom and two of her friends on vacation to Palm Springs. The day she returned, I picked her up and asked if she’d mind looking at a few open houses before I dropped her off at her apartment.

We passed a one-story ranch with an “open house” sign out front. Once inside, mom seemed puzzled. Looking around at the furnishings, she said, “Wow, that’s strange, I have a coffee table just like that one—and this lamp, too.” What she didn’t know is that Toni and I had saved enough to buy her the house and had moved in her stuff while she was away. In the backyard, all of her friends yelled, “Welcome home!” She was overjoyed—and still lives there today.

As for me, modeling turned into acting in 1987 when I auditioned for “Sable,” a TV series. Today, I live with my husband and our daughter in a one-story, three-bedroom contemporary house in the hills above Brentwood. As for John Crosby, he’s still my manager.


How about that? A complete edition of Pickings without items on the miscreants in our governments. We’ll get back to those creeps tomorrow.