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

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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.

 

 

October 2, 2014

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Remember when the Park Service was doing the tyrant’s bidding by trying to make the government shut down hurt as much as possible? Road & Track has the story of a biker who violated the ban in the Great Smoky MountainsPark, wrote about it, and got three citations and 40 hours of community service for his trouble.  

If you find yourself standing before a federal judge, the last thing you want is to feel your attorney go stiff beside you. His Honor looked at the paperwork in front of him and paused. His eyes shot over his rimless glasses and landed first on me, then my attorney, who could not have performed a more perfect interpretation of 2×12 plank if we had entered into a life-and-death game of charades. It was inspired.

“Mr. Bowman, I’m trying to understand why your alleged offense occurred on one day and your citations were written almost two weeks later.”

Ah. That.

Rangers don’t take kindly to publicly mocking the government shutdown by riding a motorcycle through a closed national park. That’s especially true when you write a piece about it. I’d netted three citations for my efforts, including traveling the wrong way on a one-way road, ignoring a public closure, and operating a motor vehicle off of designated trails.

The three yellow slips of paper that showed up in the mail two weeks later succinctly summed up one brilliant afternoon in the park last October. Combined, these were good for up to 18 months of incarceration or $15,000 in fines. To make matters more endearing, the offenses occurred on federal land, which meant each was a genuine misdemeanor, the kind that go in the box under “HAVE YOU EVER BEEN CONVICTED OF A MISDEMEANOR” on job applications and unpleasant conversations with in-laws.

“Oh, I see. It says here you wrote an article for RoadandTrack.com titled, ‘A 250cc middle finger to the government shutdown.’”

That’s the one. …

 

 

OK, back to the guy in the white house who blames everyone else for his mistakes. Andrew Malcolm is first up.

… Now, as is his habit, Obama is muddying the waters with superfluous words and thoughts to cover his lies, gaffes and distortions. He warns of making generalizations, then makes them. He smoothly dodges and deflects questions, appearing to listeners’ ears to answer while changing the subject from his responsibility to someone else’s fault.

It’s easier for Obama to do because of a less than shark-like D.C. media and because words heard come and go so fast it’s difficult for listeners to parse and analyze before the Talker-in-Chief is off gabbing about something else. All of which, of course, he knows full well.

Take this exchange with “60 Minutes’” Steve Kroft: “Is this the most difficult period of your presidency, the biggest challenge of your presidency, this period we’re in right now?”

Pause the tape. Now, Obama knows if he agrees, that’s the night’s top headline: “Worst time of my presidency: Obama.” So, he gives Kroft nothing on that subject and pivots to recalling the ancient, reviled Bush era to change the topic away from himself. Resume tape.

“It’s a significant period. But if you think about what I walked into when I came into office….”

Can you imagine a headline like this: “Obama says U.S. in a ‘significant period’” Of course not. …

 

 

Even the NY Times is not going to buy into the shameless lying by the president. Paul Mirengoff has the story.

Peter Baker and Eric Schmitt of the New York Times destroy President Obama’s attempt to shift blame to the intelligence community for his lack of focus on ISIS:

‘By late last year, classified American intelligence reports painted an increasingly ominous picture of a growing threat from Sunni extremists in Syria, according to senior intelligence and military officials. Just as worrisome, they said, were reports of deteriorating readiness and morale among troops next door in Iraq.

But the reports, they said, generated little attention in a White House consumed with multiple brush fires and reluctant to be drawn back into Iraq. “Some of us were pushing the reporting, but the White House just didn’t pay attention to it,” said a senior American intelligence official. “They were preoccupied with other crises,” the official added. “This just wasn’t a big priority.” ‘

What “crises” were diverting the White House’s attention late last year from the rise of terrorist force more dangerous than al Qaeda? The botched Obamacare roll-out? …

 

 

Max Boot has more.

… Of course Obama won’t accept responsibility for pulling out of Iraq either–he blames that too on the Iraqis for failing to agree to grant U.S. troops legal immunity in a status of forces agreed ratified by their parliament. Yet it turns out this was a bogus issue all along. How do I know? Because Obama has now sent 1,600, and counting, U.S. troops to Iraq without any legal immunity or any Status of Forces Agreement ratified by parliament. If he’s doing it now, why couldn’t he do it in 2012? Simply because he didn’t want to–Iraqi leaders almost certainly would have acceded if Obama had shown the will to remain past 2011.

Rather than accepting blame for his own misjudgments, Obama stubbornly continues to defend his mistakes such as failing to arm moderate Syrian fighters in 2011-2012 as most of his security cabinet was urging him to do. “For us to just go blind on that would have been counterproductive and would not have helped the situation. But we also would have committed us to a much more significant role inside of Syria,” Obama said.

Yet Obama’s own officials, including Robert Ford, his former ambassador to Damascus, have said that the U.S. has had the information for years that it needs to figure out who’s who among the Syrian rebels. It’s just that Obama refused to act on that information precisely because he refused to accept a “more significant role inside of Syria” even if such a role could have stopped the growth of ISIS.

If Obama is going to rebuild shattered confidence in his foreign policy, he needs to accept blame for what he did wrong before and act to correct those mistakes now instead of scapegoating others and taking refuge in half-measures such as his current air strikes without boots on the ground, which he characterized on 60 Minutes as a “counterterrorism operation” rather than “the sort of occupying armies that characterized the Iraq and Afghan war.”

 

 

Peter Wehner says he’s getting his press secretary to lie for him. 

White House press secretary Josh Earnest has a problem. In a misguided effort to protect his boss, the president, he is continuing to lie.

I use the word lie advisedly but, I believe, correctly. Here’s why.

In an exchange yesterday with ABC’s Jonathan Karl, Mr. Earnest continues to peddle the fiction that President Obama did not have ISIS/ISIL in mind when he referred to it in an interview in the New Yorker as a “jayvee team.” Several weeks ago I showed why that claim is false, and so have many others, including Glenn Kessler, the fact-checker for the Washington Post. …

 

 

More and more liberals are fed up too. Here’s Josh Kraushaar in National Journal.

In attempting to downplay the political damage from a slew of second-term controversies, President Obama has counted on the American people having a very short memory span and a healthy suspension of disbelief. The time-tested strategy for Obama: Claim he’s in the dark about his own administration’s activities, blame the mess on subordinates, and hope that with the passage of time, all will be forgotten. Harry Truman, the president isn’t. He’s more likely to pass the buck.

His latest eyebrow-raiser came on 60 Minutes on Sunday, when the president blamed the failure to anticipate the rise of ISIS on his intelligence community for not informing him of the growing threat. “I think our head of the intelligence community, Jim Clapper, has acknowledged that I think they underestimated what had been taking place in Syria,” Obama said. Most early news reports dutifully pinned the blame on the intelligence agencies, with the president escaping any further scrutiny.

But anyone following the news over the past year would have been better informed than the commander in chief. As NBC foreign affairs correspondent Richard Engel said on MSNBC Monday: “It’s surprising that the president said that U.S. intelligence missed this one, because it seems that U.S. intelligence was the only group that missed this one. Everyone knew that Islamic extremists were on the rise in Syria and in Iraq; it was well documented. The extremists were publicizing their activities online—they were bragging about it. Journalists, including us, were interviewing foreign fighters. This was no state secret.”

Former Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania, the highest-ranking former military officer ever elected to Congress, told National Journal that the president was wrong to pass the buck. “As commander in chief, you’re accountable. …

 

 

Yes, the country was dumb enough to return him to office, but American Interest reports 60 Minutes audience dropped by half when the president was on.

President Obama gave an interview on 60 Minutes this past weekend.  It seems that few people were watching.

Deadline Hollywood, self-described as “[t]he definitive choice for industry insiders,” noted that 60 Minutes ratings were “off by 69% from last Sunday, when it directly followed the game.”  Meaning that an NFL game preceding 60 Minutes is responsible for the show’s typically strong ratings. Specifically, 60 Minutes had 17.9 million viewers on September 21 but only 9.7 million viewers the following week on September 28, when Steve Kroft interviewed the president. …

 

 

Matthew Continetti posts on the ways the Clintons control the press.

Amy Chozick covers Hillary Clinton for the New York Times. She is an enterprising and dedicated reporter, and many of her stories have annoyed the 2016 presidential frontrunner. This week Chozick covered a meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative. It was her turn to be annoyed.

Chozick’s most revealing article about the event had nothing to do with the scheduled agenda, or with the opaque, labyrinthine, and seedy finances of the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation, or with the tsunami of clichés from the stage about global warming, gender equality, wellness, empowerment, polarization, Mohammed Yunus, sustainable development, globalization, Palm Oil alternatives, uplift, board diversity, education access, green energy, Malala, information technology, organic farming, public-private partnerships, and #YesAllWomen. The article had to do with Chozick’s bathroom habits.

Every time she felt the urge, a representative of the Clintons would accompany her to the ladies’ room. Every time. And not only would the “friendly 20-something press aide” stroll with Chozick to the entrance of the john. She also “waited outside the stall.” As though Chozick were a little girl.

If it was not embarrassing enough to be chaperoned to the water closet by a recent college graduate no doubt beaming with righteousness and an entirely undeserved and illusory sense of self-importance, some earnest and vacant and desperate-to-be-hip Millennial whose affiliation with the Clintons, whose involvement in their various schemes, consists of nothing more than her uniform of white shirt and silk scarf—if this was not on its own an indignity and an insult for a correspondent of the New York Times, when Chozick asked for comment on the bathroom police, she received the following response: …

October 1, 2014

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Pickings has often carried items about the Air France flight that disappeared five years ago over the South Atlantic while enroute to Paris from Rio de Janeiro. Vanity Fair has published a riveting account of the flight and it fills all of today’s edition.

On the last day of May in 2009, as night enveloped the airport in Rio de Janeiro, the 216 passengers waiting to board a flight to Paris could not have suspected that they would never see daylight again, or that many would sit strapped to their seats for another two years before being found dead in the darkness, 13,000 feet below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean. But that is what happened. Air France Flight 447 carried a crew of nine flight attendants and three pilots—their numbers augmented because of duty-time limitations on a 5,700-mile trip that was expected to last nearly 11 hours. These were highly trained people, flying an immaculate wide-bodied Airbus A330 for one of the premier airlines of the world, an iconic company of which all of France is proud. Even today—with the flight recorders recovered from the sea floor, French technical reports in hand, and exhaustive inquests under way in French courts—it remains almost unimaginable that the airplane crashed. A small glitch took Flight 447 down, a brief loss of airspeed indications—the merest blip of an information problem during steady straight-and-level flight. It seems absurd, but the pilots were overwhelmed.

 

To the question of why, the facile answer—that they happened to be three unusually incompetent men—has been widely dismissed. Other answers are more speculative, because the pilots can no longer explain themselves and had slid into a state of frantic incoherence before they died. But their incoherence tells us a lot. It seems to have been rooted in the very advances in piloting and aircraft design that have improved airline safety over the past 40 years. To put it briefly, automation has made it more and more unlikely that ordinary airline pilots will ever have to face a raw crisis in flight—but also more and more unlikely that they will be able to cope with such a crisis if one arises. Moreover, it is not clear that there is a way to resolve this paradox. That is why, to many observers, the loss of Air France 447 stands out as the most perplexing and significant airline accident of modern times. …

 

… In the late 1970s, a small team of researchers at a NASA facility in Mountain View, California, began a systematic assessment of airline-pilot performance. One of them was a young research psychologist and private pilot named John Lauber, who later served for 10 years as a member of the National Transportation Safety Board and went on to run the safety division at Airbus in France. As part of the NASA effort, Lauber spent several years riding in airline cockpits, observing the operations and taking notes. This was at a time when most crews still included a flight engineer, who sat behind the pilots and operated the airplane’s electrical and mechanical systems. What Lauber found was a culture dominated by authoritarian captains, many of them crusty old reactionaries who brooked no interference from their subordinates. In those cockpits, co-pilots were lucky if occasionally they were allowed to fly. Lauber told me about one occasion, when he entered a Boeing 727 cockpit at a gate before the captain arrived, and the flight engineer said, “I suppose you’ve been in a cockpit before.”

“Well, yes.”

“But you may not be aware that I’m the captain’s sexual adviser.”

“Well, no, I didn’t know that.”

“Yeah, because whenever I speak up, he says, ‘If I want your fucking advice, I’ll ask for it.’ ” …

 

… It all depended on the captains. A few were natural team leaders—and their crews acquitted themselves well. Most, however, were Clipper Skippers, whose crews fell into disarray under pressure and made dangerous mistakes. Ruffell Smith published the results in January 1979, in a seminal paper, “NASA Technical Memorandum 78482.” The gist of it was that teamwork matters far more than individual piloting skill. This ran counter to long tradition in aviation but corresponded closely with the findings of another NASA group, which made a careful study of recent accidents and concluded that in almost all cases poor communication in the cockpit was to blame. …

 

… Automation is an integral part of the package. Autopilots have been around since nearly the start of aviation, and component systems have been automated since the 1960s, but in glass-cockpit designs, the automation is centralized and allows the systems to communicate with one another, to act as parts of an integrated whole, and even to decide which information should be presented to the pilots, and when. At the core are flight-management computers—with keypads mounted on central pedestals—which are largely pre-programmed on the ground according to optimizations decided upon by airline dispatchers, and which guide the airplane’s autopilots through the full complexity of each flight. By the mid-1980s, many such airplanes, both Airbuses and Boeings, had entered the global fleet, for the most part leaving their pilots to simply observe the functioning of the systems. …

 

… Wiener pointed out that the effect of automation is to reduce the cockpit workload when the workload is low and to increase it when the workload is high. Nadine Sarter, an industrial engineer at the University of Michigan, and one of the pre-eminent researchers in the field, made the same point to me in a different way: “Look, as automation level goes up, the help provided goes up, workload is lowered, and all the expected benefits are achieved. But then if the automation in some way fails, there is a significant price to pay. We need to think about whether there is a level where you get considerable benefits from the automation but if something goes wrong the pilot can still handle it.” …

 

… For commercial-jet designers, there are some immutable facts of life. It is crucial that your airplanes be flown safely and as cheaply as possible within the constraints of wind and weather. Once the questions of aircraft performance and reliability have been resolved, you are left to face the most difficult thing, which is the actions of pilots. There are more than 300,000 commercial-airline pilots in the world, of every culture. They work for hundreds of airlines in the privacy of cockpits, where their behavior is difficult to monitor. Some of the pilots are superb, but most are average, and a few are simply bad. To make matters worse, with the exception of the best, all of them think they are better than they are. Airbus has made extensive studies that show this to be true. The problem in the real world is that the pilots who crash your airplanes or simply burn too much fuel are difficult to spot in the crowd. A Boeing engineer gave me his perspective on this. He said, “Look, pilots are like other people. Some are heroic under pressure, and some duck and run. Either way, it’s hard to tell in advance. You almost need a war to find out.” But of course you can’t have a war to find out. Instead, what you do is try to insert your thinking into the cockpit.

First, you put the Clipper Skipper out to pasture, because he has the unilateral power to screw things up. You replace him with a teamwork concept—call it Crew Resource Management—that encourages checks and balances and requires pilots to take turns at flying. Now it takes two to screw things up. Next you automate the component systems so they require minimal human intervention, and you integrate them into a self-monitoring robotic whole. You throw in buckets of redundancy. You add flightmanagement computers into which flight paths can be programmed on the ground, and you link them to autopilots capable of handling the airplane from the takeoff through the rollout after landing. You design deeply considered minimalistic cockpits that encourage teamwork by their very nature, offer excellent ergonomics, and are built around displays that avoid showing extraneous information but provide alerts and status reports when the systems sense they are necessary. Finally, you add fly-by-wire control. At that point, after years of work and billions of dollars in development costs, you have arrived in the present time. As intended, the autonomy of pilots has been severely restricted, but the new airplanes deliver smoother, more accurate, and more efficient rides—and safer ones too.

It is natural that some pilots object. This appears to be primarily a cultural and generational matter. In China, for instance, the crews don’t care. In fact, they like their automation and rely on it willingly. By contrast, an Airbus man told me about an encounter between a British pilot and his superior at a Middle Eastern airline, in which the pilot complained that automation had taken the fun out of life, and the superior answered, to paraphrase, “Hey asshole, if you want to have fun, go sail a boat. You fly with automation or find some other job.” …

September 30, 2014

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Sunday night on 60 Minutes the president blamed everyone else for his failure to understand the risks in the growth of jihadist strength in Iraq and Syria. Many of our favorites have comments. Streetwise Prof is first.

… Other presidents have paid a price for attempting to dump blame onto the intel community. Such attempts  typically  result in a deluge of damaging leaks: the IC fights back, and fights back hard and dirty, usually.

I wonder if that typical script will play out this time. I suspect it will, because what’s already in the public domain makes Obama’s statement risible. One early example, from an ex-Pentagon official: “Either the president doesn’t read the intelligence he’s getting or he’s bullshitting.”

I disagree with that assessment. The “either/or” is misplaced, most likely. I’m putting my money on “both”, i.e., “the president doesn’t read the intelligence and he’s bullshitting.” Because that’s what he does.

 

 

Scott Johnson of Power Line with more.

President Obama famously disparaged the Islamic State terrorist group as the terrorist JV to his apostle David Remnick in an interview for the New Yorker late last year (Remnick’s article is here). It sounded good at the time, but the words come back to haunt Obama. They mark him indelibly as the jv president.

Asked about it last night by Steve Kroft on 60 Minutes, Obama passed the buck to his intelligence functionaries. …

 

 

Ed Morrissey weighs in.

The Commander in Chief made an appearance on 60 Minutes last night to reassure everyone that he’s in charge during this fight against Islamist terror … at least now. When Steve Kroft asked Obama how ISIS went from the “jayvees” in January to a 40,000-man army sweeping across the Syrian-Iraqi desert in June, Obama explained that the buck stopped, oh, at the office of James Clapper. Using testimony from earlier this week from the DNI, Obama shifted the blame for the surprise this spring to American intelligence: …

… “Steve Kroft: What? How did they end up where they are in control of so much territory? Was that a complete surprise to you?

President Obama: Well I think, our head of the intelligence community, Jim Clapper, has acknowledged that I think they underestimated what had been taking place in Syria [emphasis mine].”

“They”? If that’s the case, why is Clapper still drawing a paycheck? After all, this is the same James Clapper that deliberately misled Congress about the NSA’s domestic data trawling, so it’s not as if he’s a universally credible figure anyway. Now we seemed to have missed the emergence of one of the biggest terror threats since the Taliban in Afghanistan took over after we helped push the Soviets out, and Clapper still has a job. If the buck-passing has any credence at all, Obama would have canned him in June. …

 

 

Jennifer Rubin says the critical mistake was unmentioned by President Who Me?

Notice that the component of the Iraq situation Obama left out was the most critical — the withdrawal of our troops and the loss of influence over Maliki. That was foretold by numerous lawmakers, military men and outside experts who explained sectarian violence would reappear — precisely as it did.

Candidate for Senate in New Hampshire Scott Brown released a statement bashing Obama’s buck-passing: “I’m disappointed that President Obama refused to accept responsibility for underestimating ISIS. Instead, he blamed James Clapper, his director of intelligence. Yet, it was President Obama who described ISIS as a ‘Jayvee team’ earlier this year. At some point, the man in charge has to answer for what happens on his own watch.”

Many administration officials and lawmakers such as Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) had for years argued that our hands-off policy in Syria would create a radicalizing dynamic that would result in a terrorist sanctuary in the Middle East. This prediction was accurate and was informed not by some super-secret analysis McCain saw about the Islamic State, but by understanding regional dynamics and history. It’s ironic that Obama, who won the presidency by deploring the Bush administration for following intelligence advice on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, now hides behind the intelligence community.

Lots of people knew exactly what was brewing in Syria and Iraq. The Daily Beast reported that the collapse of Iraq to Islamic State forces was no surprise to those who were paying attention: …

 

 

Remember Harry Truman who took responsibility by saying, “The buck stops here.”?  Seth Mandel says the president is the anti-Truman.

There are three ways to read Barack Obama’s epic buck-passing from Sunday night’s interview on 60 Minutes. There is the literal reading: Obama, in trying to fend off blame for his administration’s failure regarding ISIS, said “Jim Clapper has acknowledged that I think they underestimated what had been taking place in Syria,” referring to the intel community.

Then there is the classic Obama-is-disappointed-in-America-yet-again framing, which is not flattering to Obama but better than the truth. Both the New York Times and the Washington Post went this route. Here’s the Times: “President Obama acknowledged in an interview broadcast on Sunday that the United States had underestimated the rise of the Islamic State militant group.” And the Post: “The United States underestimated the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, President Obama said during an interview.”

If you’ve followed the events of the past year, you’ll notice that neither of those spin cycles is true and so there must be a third option. There is: the truth, which is that Barack Obama underestimated ISIS despite the intel community trying desperately to explain it to him since day one. And thus, tired of getting thrown under the bus, the intel community has pointed out to Eli Lake at the Daily Beast that what the president said is completely divorced from reality: …

  

 

John Fund says one of the awful legacies of Holder is the elevation of Al Sharpton.

As Eric Holder prepares to leave as attorney general, there is a fierce debate over his six-year tenure. Many conservative senators who voted to confirm him in 2009 now regret it. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, now zings Holder’s “lack of respect for Congress, the American taxpayer, and the laws on the books.” Even some of his supporters agree he’s been confrontational and polarizing. Juan Williams of Fox News rails against anti-Holder “scandalmongers” but then admits “the Justice Department has devolved into the heart of Washington darkness, the absolute pit of modern political polarization in my lifetime.” 

One reason for that polarization is that, thanks to direct support from Holder and President Obama himself, the Reverend Al Sharpton has now become the nation’s leading African-American civil-rights leader. Last month, Politico proclaimed Sharpton “the national black leader Obama leans on most.”

“There’s a trust factor with The Rev from the Oval Office on down,” a White House official told Politico. The White House had early on concluded it didn’t have much use for Jesse Jackson, a former top Obama adviser told Politico’s Glenn Thrush: “We needed to have someone to deal with in the African-American community, and Sharpton was the next best thing, so, yeah, we sort of helped build him up.” Egad, the equivalent of unleashing Typhoid Mary in a kitchen.

Today, Sharpton is at the center of presidential announcements and frequently texts or e-mails with Holder and top Justice officials. He vacationed this year at the Martha’s Vineyard condo of uber-presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett, just up the road from where Obama himself was staying. Last month, he attended the funeral of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., with the White House’s blessing. “Michael Brown’s blood is crying for justice,” Sharpton told attendees. “Those police that are wrong need to be dealt with.”  …

 

 

Kevin Williamson notes that abortion on demand is part of the left’s war on the poor.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, having decided for some inexplicable reason to do a long interview with a fashion magazine (maybe it is her celebrated collection of lace collars), reaffirmed the most important things we know about her: her partisanship, her elevation of politics over law, and her desire to see as many poor children killed as is feasibly possible.

Speaking about such modest restrictions on abortion as have been enacted over the past several years, Justice Ginsburg lamented that “the impact of all these restrictions is on poor women.” Then she added: “It makes no sense as a national policy to promote birth only among poor people.”

This is not her first time weighing in on the question of what by any intellectually honest standard must be described as eugenics. In an earlier interview, she described the Roe v. Wade decision as being intended to control population growth, “particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of.” She was correct in her assessment of Roe; the co-counsel in that case, Ron Weddington, would later advise President Bill Clinton: “You can start immediately to eliminate the barely educated, unhealthy, and poor segment of our country,” by making abortifacients cheap and universally available. “It’s what we all know is true, but we only whisper it.” …

September 29, 2014

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Roger Simon posts on Eric Holder.

Of all the malfeasances of William Jefferson Clinton the one that would have most justified a removal from office was not the Monica hijinks, even with the attendant lying under oath and absurd parsings of the word “is,” but the pardoning of Marc Rich — the billionaire international commodities trader and mammoth contributor to, er, Clinton.  Luckily for Bill, this action occurred on the last day of his presidency, making anything like impeachment moot,  even though it was an example of political corruption that would have made Boss Tweed envious. For those who don’t recall the details, here’s Wikipedia: …

… Until, on January 20, 2001, literally in the final minutes of his presidency, Rich was granted a pardon by Clinton, a pardon pushed through a reluctant judge on the determined “recommendation” of then-Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder.

Yes, that’s  the same Eric Holder who lectures us about race and calls Americans “cowards.”  In reality, he was a political bagman, a low rent consigliere whose  unquestioning obedience to power was evidently appreciated by Barack Obama and rewarded with the full position of attorney general. …

 

 

Sharyl Atkisson has Holder thoughts too.

… Holder declined my repeated interview requests over the years. In a recent interview with ABC News, Holder said, “It is the honor of my professional life to serve the American people as attorney general. I hope I’ve done a good job. I’ve certainly tried to do as good a job as I can.”

Holder has served a little more than five years and seven months in office as the nation’s first black attorney general. He is also the first attorney general to be held in criminal contempt of Congress.

As the country’s lead law enforcement official but also a political appointee with great latitude to steer policy, no attorneys general escape controversy. Holder’s activist stance often proved polarizing. From the start, he made clear that he intended for civil rights protection—specifically combating the unequal treatment of black Americans—to be a top priority during his tenure.

The shooting of an unarmed, 18-year-old black suspect by a white policeman in Ferguson, Mo., on Aug. 9 provided Holder a prime opportunity to make his mark. His intervention drew both praise and criticism.

Holder took the unusual step of taking over a police investigation before there was any evidence of that the local police had mishandled, or would mishandle it. It was a step that the Los Angeles Times called “unusually aggressive” writing, on Aug. 20, that “Holder appears locked in an odd and unsteady competition with Missouri officials over which of them, if either, will prosecute Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson first.” …

 

 

 We’ll close the Holder section with Nick Gillespie in Time magazine.

… he was a thoroughly typical attorney general, a cabinet position that has long been held by individuals whose first loyalty is to the president that appointed them rather than to the Constitution they swear to defend.

From A. Mitchell Palmer (who rounded up and deported real and imagined Communists) to John Mitchell (convicted on perjury charges related to Watergate) to Janet Reno (who ordered the disastrous assault on the Branch Davidians and spent years threatening to censor cable TV), the position has long been a holding tank for low-performing miscreants. …

… Arguably more disturbing was Holder’s central role in signing off on the secret monitoring of Fox News’ James Rosen and other journalists and his staunch defense of National Security Agency surveillance programs (even when federal oversight boards decreed them unconstitutional and ineffective). It took a 13-hour filibuster by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) to get Holder to acknowledge in plain language that there were in fact limits to the president’s secret kill list (the existence of which is itself deeply disturbing). …

  

 

Kevin Williamson says free markets keep the environment cleaner.  It’s governments that are the worst polluters.

… The fullest and most comprehensive attempts to impose socialism on a society happened in the twentieth century in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the People’s Republic of China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and like-minded enterprises. “Communism” is what socialists call socialism that they do not want to talk about, but in the interest of fairness I should emphasize that I do not believe that the USSR is what Ms. Sawant et al. have in mind when they talk about socialism. But the USSR wasn’t what the Russian revolutionaries had in mind, either, and it probably is not really what Lenin or even Stalin desired. Almost nobody sets out to impoverish, oppress, starve, and murder millions of people, but that is what happened, and that it happened is not a mere coincidence deriving from defects within Russian culture or Mao’s management style. It probably is not the case that the Russians failed socialism, but that socialism failed the Russians.

Under a system that imposed heavy government regimentation upon the economy, direct government ownership of the “commanding heights” of the economy (and the commanded heights, too), a socialist vision of property, etc., the environmental results were nothing short of catastrophic. Setting aside the direct human costs of socialist environmental policy in the twentieth century — the famines, the deformations, the horrific birth defects — socialism was a disaster from the purely environmental point of view, too.

Consider the Aral Sea disaster, in which one of the world’s largest lakes was converted into a toxic desert, with the husks of ships still floating upon the sand dunes — not by accident, but as a matter of government policy, implemented not by the famous monster Stalin, but by Nikita Khrushchev, by comparison a reformer. Like our contemporary socialists, the Soviets of the Khrushchev era hoped to fundamentally transform the economy with a series of careful “investments” and infrastructure projects, in this case by turning a great deal of marginal land into a cotton-producing powerhouse that would substantially raise exports. Water headed for the Aral Sea was diverted in the service of this government infrastructure investment, and the seabed became a desert. …

 

 

WSJ Editorial on the government campaign to put for-profit colleges out of business.

The Department of Education this summer drove the for-profit Corinthian Colleges out of business. Now the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is trying to wipe out the company’s shareholders and creditors by suing the for-profit for predatory lending. There ought to be a law against predatory regulating.

Last week the CFPB sued the Santa Ana-based for-profit for inducing “prospective students to incur the loan obligations necessary to enroll by promising career training and graduate employment opportunities.” Corinthian’s crime, in other words, was creating a private-alternative to the government-loan monopoly. …

… All of this resembles a hyena pack dismembering a wildebeest carcass, which seems to be the point. The Obama Administration wants to show other for-profit operators what could happen if they resist its new regulations. The real tragedy is that the destruction of Corinthian will make it harder for graduates to get a job.

 

 

Conservative HQ posts on the campaign to silence Rush Limbaugh.

You may have heard about the so-called “grassroots movement” to force local advertisers to stop advertising on the Rush Limbaugh program, allegedly because of consumer opposition to Rush’s conservative views.

It turns out that this so-called Stop Rush campaign isn’t a grassroots campaign at all, but a carefully crafted conspiracy of a small group of radical leftwing activists to bully advertisers into dropping Rush’s program and muffle one of the most effective conservative voices in America in the lead-up to the 2014 midterms and silence him permanently before the 2016 presidential election.
 
There is now stunning proof that only a small group of radical Leftists connected with Media Matters are involved in the “Stop Rush” campaign – NOT masses of Americans. Radical leftwing advocacy group Media Matters’ disgusting attempts to silence our viewpoints are nothing new – but now the dirty tactics of Media Matters have been revealed, and they are more deceptive than you can imagine.
 
We don’t use the term “conspiracy” lightly, and we here at CHQ generally lean toward skepticism when friends bring us tales of unseen forces manipulating major events. But in this case the evidence (links below) proves that only a few radicals at leftwing advocacy organization Media Matters are running and participating in this effort to intimidate both local radio stations that carry Rush, and local “Mom-and-Pop” businesses that advertise on his show.
 
They have used technology to create tweets from people who don’t exist, to use abuse accounts on Facebook, and to intimidate small businesses who advertise on conservative shows. Media Matters is vicious, and dangerous to your freedom as few other domestic threats have been. …

September 28, 2014

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Charles Krauthammer with an overview of our Middle East strategy. 

Late, hesitant and reluctant as he is, President Obama has begun effecting a workable strategy against the Islamic State. True, he’s been driven there by public opinion. Does anyone imagine that without the broadcast beheadings we’d be doing anything more than pinprick strikes within Iraq? If Obama can remain steady through future fluctuations in public opinion, his strategy might succeed.

But success will not be what he’s articulating publicly. The strategy will not destroy the Islamic State. It’s more containment-plus: Expel the Islamic State from Iraq, contain it in Syria. Because you can’t win from the air. In Iraq, we have potential ground allies. In Syria, we don’t.

The order of battle in Iraq is straightforward. The Kurds will fight, but not far beyond their own territory. A vigorous air campaign could help them recover territory lost to the Islamic State and perhaps a bit beyond. But they won’t be anyone’s expeditionary force.

From the Shiites in Iraq we should expect little. U.S. advisers embedded with a few highly trained Iraqi special forces could make some progress. But we cannot count on the corrupt and demoralized regular Shiite-dominated military.

Our key potential allies are the Sunni tribes. We will have to induce them to change allegiances a second time, joining us again, as they did during the 2007-2008 surge, against the jihadists.

Having abandoned them in 2011, we won’t find this easy. …

 

 

 

Peter Wehner wonders just how effective the bombing campaign will be. 

For those who believe that the air strikes we’re conducting against Syria will achieve President Obama’s goal of defeating ISIS, consider this story in yesterday’s New York Times, which begins this way:

After six weeks of American airstrikes, the Iraqi government’s forces have scarcely budged the Sunni extremists of the Islamic State from their hold on more than a quarter of the country, in part because many critical Sunni tribes remain on the sidelines.

This news comes as we learned over the weekend that ISIS attacked an Iraqi army base, killing upwards of 300-500 Iraqi soldiers. “If the survivors’ accounts are correct,” the Washington Post reports, “it would make Sunday the most disastrous day for the Iraqi army since several divisions collapsed in the wake of the Islamic State’s capture of the northern city of Mosul amid its cross-country sweep in June.”

So while in Iraq we’ve been pounding ISIS from the air for a month and a half, we haven’t begun to fundamentally alter the facts on the ground. …

 

 

IBD Editors point out the president has gone to war with the weapons systems he has scrapped.

The president launches attacks on the Islamic State with two weapons systems that were targeted for elimination by the administration years before their usefulness ended or any replacements were ready.

With the decision to launch air and missile strikes against Islamic State targets in Syria, in addition to ongoing strikes in Iraq in what is said to be the start of a long and sustained campaign to “degrade and destroy” the terrorist group, President Obama has stumbled upon a revelation:

The military whose budgets he’s slashed and weapons systems he opposed is suddenly quite useful.

As the Washington Post reported, the first strikes Monday night included a volley of 47 Tomahawk cruise missiles from two warships, the guided missile destroyer Arleigh Burke and the guided missile cruiser Philippine Sea. They are part of the George H.W. Bush carrier battle group led by the aircraft carrier of the same name.

The problem, as we reported back in March, is that the Tomahawk was slated by Obama to be phased out of the Navy’s inventory, with no timely replacement ready. Under his budget proposals, the Navy, which as recently as last year had plans to buy 980 more Tomahawks, the primary cruise missile used throughout the fleet, would see purchases drop from 196 last year to just 100 in 2015. The number will then drop to zero in 2016.

Doing the math, we see that Obama has already consumed in one night of strikes 47% of next year’s planned purchases. …

 

 

We’ll have more in other days, but Paul Mirengoff of Power Line gets first dibs on Eric The Red.

There have been worse members of presidential cabinets than Eric Holder. John B. Floyd and Howell Cobb, both of James Buchanan’s cabinet, who apparently aided the South in the days before secession come to mind.

In my 40 plus years of observing presidencies, though, Holder has a strong claim on first place. His warped attempts to use the national law enforcement apparatus to remake America along leftist lines would have made his tenure an abomination even if it hadn’t been further stained by racism. But racially stained Holder’s tenure was, as Christian Adams reminds us:

[A]fter six years of Holder hugging Al Sharpton, stoking racial division in places like Florida and Ferguson, after suing police and fire departments to impose racial hiring requirements, after refusing to enforce election laws that protect white victims or require voter rolls to be cleaned, after launching harassing litigation against peaceful pro-life protesters, after incident after incident of dishonesty and contempt before Congress — after all this, it was clear to anyone with any intellectual honesty that this man had a vision of the law at odds with the nation’s traditions. …

 

 

Debra Saunders remarks on the missing peace protests.

… Partisans on both sides of the aisle like to think that if they were in charge, the world would be a safer place. For eight years, Democrats indulged in the seductive conceit that if they were in charge, the world couldn’t be worse than it was with the bumbling Bush as commander in chief. As Secretary of State John Kerry scoffed as a senator in 2004, Bush ran “the most arrogant, inept, reckless and ideological foreign policy in the modern history of this country.”

As the Democratic nominee in 2008, Obama promised a “tough, smart and principled national security strategy.” His five goals: “ending the war in Iraq responsibly; finishing the fight against al-Qaida and the Taliban; securing all nuclear weapons and materials from terrorists and rogue states; achieving true energy security; and rebuilding our alliances to meet the challenges of the 21st century.”

So what’s the world like now with the edgy, cerebral and principled Obama in the Oval Office?

Obama did pull U.S. troops out of Iraq, only to create a dangerous power vacuum. Hence the need for military force in Iraq and Syria. No ground war? Please. America has adviser boots on the ground in Iraq. In Syria, U.S. forces targeted not only the Islamic State but also the al-Qaida-linked Khorasan Group. Emboldened by Obama’s plan to pull all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by 2016, the Taliban aren’t going anywhere. Fracking has made America more energy-independent. And the Nobel Peace Prize-winning president has authorized U.S. airstrikes in seven countries — Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya and Syria. …

 

 

WSJ OpEd on the rash of unvaccinated children.

… Who is choosing not to vaccinate? The answer is surprising. The area with the most cases of whooping cough in California is Los AngelesCounty, and no group within that county has lower immunization rates than residents living between Malibu and Marina Del Rey, home to some of the wealthiest and most exclusive suburbs in the country. At the Kabbalah Children’s Academy in Beverly Hills, 57% of children are unvaccinated. At the WaldorfEarlyChildhoodCenter in Santa Monica, it’s 68%, according to the Hollywood Reporter’s analysis of public-health data.

These are the kind of immunization rates that can be found in Chad or South Sudan. But parents in Beverly Hills and Santa Monica see vaccines as unnatural—something that conflicts with their healthy lifestyle. And they have no problem finding fringe pediatricians willing to cater to their irrational beliefs.

These parents are almost uniformly highly educated, but they are making an uneducated choice. It’s also a dangerous choice: Children not vaccinated against whooping cough are 24 times more likely to catch the disease. Furthermore, about 500,000 people in the U.S. can’t be vaccinated, either because they are receiving chemotherapy for cancer or immune-suppressive therapies for chronic diseases, or because they are too young. They depend on those around them to be vaccinated. Otherwise, they are often the first to suffer. And because no vaccine is 100% effective, everyone, even those who are vaccinated, is at some risk.

Parents might consider what has happened in other countries when large numbers of parents chose not to vaccinate their children. Japan, for example, which had virtually eliminated whooping cough by 1974, suffered an anti-vaccine activist movement that caused vaccine rates to fall to 10% in 1976 from 80% in 1974. In 1979, more than 13,000 cases of whooping cough and 41 deaths occurred as a result.

Another problem: We simply don’t fear these diseases anymore. My parents’ generation—children of the 1920s and 1930s—needed no convincing to vaccinate their children. They saw that whooping cough could kill as many as 8,000 babies a year. You didn’t have to convince my generation—children of the 1950s and 1960s—to vaccinate our children. We had many of these diseases, like measles, mumps, rubella and chickenpox. But young parents today don’t see the effects of vaccine-preventable diseases and they didn’t grow up with them. For them, vaccination has become an act of faith. …

 

 

Jim Geraghty reminds us why we don’t have David Brooks in these pages anymore.

On  Tuesday David Brooks, the lonely right-of-center columnist on the New York Times editorial page, offered us a fascinating portrait of how the world looks from 620 Eighth Avenue in Manhattan — or at least how the circles inhabited by a right-of-center columnist for the New York Times look.

[New York City] has never been better. . . . When I think about the 15 or 20 largest American cities, the same thought applies. Compared with all past periods, American cities and suburbs are sweeter and more interesting places.

Begin with the fact that Brooks bases his assessment of the state of the country on the condition of “15 or 20 largest American cities” (and perhaps suburbs). That leaves a lot of Americans not enjoying “sweeter and more interesting” places. …

… Brooks gets closer in his diagnosis of the absence of a “responsible leadership class,” but he never quite connects that to his previous gripe about Americans’ distrusting, protesting, ignoring, and working around the existing leadership class. Nor does Brooks indicate that he has any awareness of his own role as a cheerleader for many individuals within that leadership class, such as President Obama:

“I remember distinctly an image of — we were sitting on his couches, and I was looking at his pant leg and his perfectly creased pant,” Brooks says, “and I’m thinking, a) he’s going to be president and b) he’ll be a very good president.”

A New York Times columnist evaluating an aspiring president based upon a perfectly creased pant leg is the ideal symbol of a “leadership class” evaluating each other based on irresponsibly shallow criteria. …