March 12, 2015

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Canada’s MacLeans Magazine says habits are a key to a life of happiness. 

After every trip to the bathroom when he’s at home or in a hotel room, BJ Fogg will get down on the ground and do two push-ups. Then he’ll wash his hands. It sounds kind of weird, if you stop to think about it, but Fogg doesn’t think about it anymore. It’s a habit he has worked to develop over the past two years to help get in shape. Now, the push-ups come automatically and he gets a surge of energy each time. Often he doesn’t stop at two. On some trips, he might do 10 or 25. “I probably did 50 or 60 push-ups yesterday,” he says.

Fogg is perfectly placed to train himself into a healthy habit. He is an expert on the subject, having studied human behaviour for 20 years, mostly at StanfordUniversity, where he’s the director of the Persuasive Technology Lab. From his research, he’s learned that the best way to automate a new habit is to set the bar incredibly low. Ergo, just two pushups. “You pick something so small, it’s easy to do. Motivation isn’t required to do it,” he says. Even though he’s become much stronger, he says, he’ll never raise the minimum. The goal remains two push-ups, and anything more is a bonus. “If you want to maintain the habit, you will always be okay with just doing the tiny version of it,” he says.

Habits are important because, as Gretchen Rubin puts it, “what we do every day matters more than what we do once in a while.” When Rubin published the massively bestselling The Happiness Project, she laid out personal commandments and explored the overarching principles in her year-long journey to enjoy life to the fullest. In her new book, Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives, Rubin narrows her view dramatically, turning to the daily routine actions that make up our days. “Habits are the invisible architecture of our lives,” Rubin says in an interview. …



Jay Leno wrote a column for Autoweek on the problems with ethanol. Most of ethanol can be blamed on the W Bush administration so this post can be considered non-political. Both sides, GOP and Dems suck on this issue.

There have been a lot of old-car fires lately. I went through the ’70s, the ’80s and most of the ’90s without ever having read much about car fires. Suddenly, they are happening all over the place. Here’s one reason: The ethanol in modern gasoline—about 10 percent in many states—is so corrosive, it eats through either the fuel-pump diaphragm, old rubber fuel lines or a pot metal part, then leaks out on a hot engine … and ka-bloooooie!!!

As someone who collects old cars, and keeps them up religiously, I am now replacing fuel-pressure regulators every 12 to 18 months. New cars are equipped with fuel lines that are resistant to ethanol damage, but with older cars, the worst can happen—you’re going down the road, and suddenly your car is on fire.

There’s more. I find that gasoline, which used to last about a year and a half or two years, is pretty much done after a month or so these days. If I run a car from the teens or ’20s and fill it up with modern fuel, then it sits for more than two months, I often can’t get it to start.

Ethanol will absorb water from ambient air. In a modern vehicle, with a sealed fuel system, ethanol fuel has a harder time picking up water from the air. But in a vintage car, the water content of fuel can rise, causing corrosion and inhibiting combustion.

It gets worse. Ethanol is a solvent that can loosen the sludge, varnish and dirt that accumulate in a fuel tank. That mixture can clog fuel lines and block carburetor jets. …



Scientific American has a report on the solar powered airplane that is in the process of circumnavigating the globe.

A pioneering flight around the world will use nothing but sunshine for fuel. In the dusty peach dawn of a desert day the Solar Impulse 2 airplane took flight at 11:12 PM Eastern time on March 8 from the United Arab Emirate of Abu Dhabi on the first leg of a bid to fly around the world exclusively powered by electricity generated from sunlight.

At a top speed of 45 kilometers-per-hour the single-seat airplane flew to Muscat in neighboring Oman over roughly 10 hours, touching down at roughly 2:13 PM Eastern time, after a few hours spent circling and waiting for the right weather conditions to land. The plane is an upgraded version of the original Solar Impulse, which flew across the U.S. in 2013; both planes were built by the Solar Impulse group, led by Swiss adventurers Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg. …



Sail in the America’s Cup for Larry Ellison and make $300,000 per year. Wall Street Journal reports on filings in a lawsuit that point to those numbers.

A lawsuit against Larry Ellison ’s sailing squad, which has led to the seizure of one of his million-dollar boats, is also revealing how much the Oracle Corp. founder is willing to spend to win the America’s Cup: $300,000 a year for a rank-and-file sailor.

The litigation is the latest in a series of legal battles that have surrounded the billionaire’s sailing successes.

On Monday morning, two federal marshals walked into the San Francisco waterfront base of the sailing squad, Oracle Team USA, and seized three gray, whale-size containers holding the disassembled parts of a 45-foot-long, seven-story-tall yacht called an AC45, according to the plaintiff’s lawyer and a U.S. Marshals spokesman.

The marshals tagged the three containers, which can’t be moved until a judge issues a ruling on the seizure or allows the team to post a bond on the boat. The vessel, a smaller version of Oracle’s victorious 72-foot-long boat in the 2013 America’s Cup, is being held as a lien, or collateral, in the case. The plaintiff asked for the seizure.

The plaintiff is Joe Spooner, who spent a decade as an Oracle sailor until the team dismissed him in January. A 41-year-old New Zealand native, Spooner in February sued the team for $725,000 in wages over a 2½-year span, as well as double-wage penalties, punitive damages and legal fees, alleging the squad wrongfully discharged him without cause.



Australian Geographic reports on the 10 most destructive tsunamis in history.

Tsunamis have occurred often throughout history. So frequently in Japan, in fact, that they invented the word specifically for the phenomenon: ‘tsu’ meaning harbour and ‘nami’ meaning wave.

“It’s actually quite frightening to think that this [Japanese tsunami] event is smaller than the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, smaller even than the 1960 Chilean tsunami, yet the damage to Japan’s people and economy is still profound,” says Professor James Goff, co-director of the Australian Tsunami Research Centre and Natural Hazards Research Lab at the University of New South Wales. “It’s a horrendous tragedy, caused by a completely unpredictable event.”

Because little historical data exist on the size of tsunami waves, how many occur in one event, or how far they advance on shore, scientists rank them according to how much damage they wreak. However, assessing just how much damage a single tsunami event causes may take many months to years; and it may be some time before the Japan earthquake and tsunami can be truly rated on a historical scale. …



BBC News reports coffee may be good for your heart. 

Drinking a few cups of coffee a day may help people avoid clogged arteries – a known risk factor for heart disease – Korean researchers believe.

They studied more than 25,000 male and female employees who underwent routine health checks at their workplace.

Employees who drank a moderate amount of coffee – three to five cups a day – were less likely to have early signs of heart disease on their medical scans.

The findings reopen the debate about whether coffee is good for the heart. …



Machines Like Us says you can have too much of a good thing like vitamin D.

In terms of public health, a lack of vitamin D has long been a focal point. Several studies have shown that too low levels can prove detrimental to our health. However, new research from the University of Copenhagen reveals, for the first time, that also too high levels of vitamin D in our blood is connected to an increased risk of dying from a stroke or a coronary.

The results have just been published in the world-renowned Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism.

“We have studied the level of vitamin D in 247,574 Danes, and so far, it constitutes the world’s largest basis for this type of study. We have also analysed their mortality rate over a seven-year period after taking the initial blood sample, and in that time 16,645 patients had died. Furthermore, we have looked at the connection between their deaths and their levels of vitamin D”, Professor at the Department of Clinical Medicine, Peter Schwarz explains. …

March 11, 2015

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Kevin Williamson writes on the serial collapse of the left’s silly dreams. This time in Venezuela.

Venezuela had a good run of it for about five minutes there, at least in public-relations terms. When petroleum prices were booming, all it took was a few gallons of heating oil from Hugo Chávez to buy the extravagant praise of House members, with Representative Chaka Fattah (D., Philadelphia) issuing statements praising Venezuela’s state-run oil company “and the Venezuelan people for their benevolence.” Lest anybody feel creeped out by running political errands for a brutal and repressive caudillo, Joseph Kennedy — son of Senator Robert Kennedy — proclaimed that refusing the strongman’s patronage would be “a crime against humanity.” Kennedy was at the time the director of Citizens Energy, which had a contract to help distribute that Venezuelan heating oil — Boss Hugo was a brute, but he understood American politics.

Celebrities came to sit at his feet, with Sean Penn calling him a “champion” of the world’s poor, Oliver Stone celebrating him as “a great hero,” Antonio Banderas citing his seizure of private businesses as a model to be emulated in the rest of the world, Michael Moore praising his use of oil for political purposes, Danny Glover celebrating him as a “champion of democracy.” His successor, Nicolás Maduro, continued in the Chávez vein, and even as basics such as food and toilet paper disappeared the American Left hailed him as a hero, with Jesse Myerson, Rolling Stone’s fashionable uptown communist, calling his economic program “basically terrific.” Some of the more old-fashioned liberals at The New Republic voiced concern about Venezuela’s sham democracy, its unlimited executive authority, political repression, the hunting down of government critics, the stacking of elections and the government’s perpetrating violence inside polling places — but Myerson insisted that Venezuela’s “electoral system’s integrity puts the U.S.’s to abject shame.” Never mind that opposition leaders there are hauled off to military prison after midnight raids.

Vice President Biden, who can always be counted on to cut straight to the heart of any political question, ran into Maduro in Brazil and, noting the potentate’s thick mane, commented: “If I had your hair, I’d be president of the United States.” Tragically for the Sage of Delaware, hair transplants don’t work that way.

That is all going down the memory hole. …



Another serial fraud of the left/media has been demolished by the Ferguson outcome. Bret Stephens has that story.

Darren Wilson has been exonerated, again, in last August’s shooting death of Michael Brown, and that ought to be as much a vindication for the onetime Ferguson, Mo., police officer as it is a teachable moment for the rest of America.

It won’t be. The story line has failed, so the statistics have been put to work.

That the claims made against Mr. Wilson were doubtful should have been clear within days of Brown’s death, and again in November after a grand jury, having heard from some 60 witnesses, declined to indict the officer—an outcome one outraged commentator denounced as having “openly and shamelessly mocked our criminal justice system and laid bare the inequality of our criminal jurisprudence.”

Yet if anyone was openly and shamelessly mocking the criminal-justice system, it was so much of the media itself, credulously accepting or sanctimoniously promoting the double fable of Ferguson: that a “gentle giant” had been capriciously slain by a trigger-happy cop; and that a racist justice system stood behind that cop.

At least half that fable was put to rest last week by an exhaustive Justice Department report. …



Business News Factor tallys the cost of the year’s serial snow storms in New England. Not as bad, they say, as last year’s mid-west polar vortex.

Ignore anyone who tells you snow is free. Every work day lost during New England’s historic winter has meant millions of dollars taken out of the regional economy.

IHS Global Insight, an economic analysis firm, estimates Massachusetts alone suffered roughly $1 billion in lost wages and profits, as storm after storm pummeled the region, delivering over eight feet of snow in roughly a month.

Retailers and restaurants were among the hardest hit, as customers held off on big purchases or chose to stay at home rather than enjoy a night on the town.

A survey released this week by Massachusetts business groups representing those and other industries reported sales dropped an average of 24 percent and payroll dropped about 7 percent among their small businesses members.

Car dealers and real estate agents complained the poorly-timed storms — many of which hit on or around weekends — were disastrous to business. And with the exception of the region’s famed ski resorts, many New England hotels, transportation companies and other businesses in the travel and tourism trade say they’ve struggled too. …



Popular Science posts on Panama Canal expansion.

Over the past 20 years or so, traffic on the world’s oceans has quadrupled. Ships now carry 95 percent of the cargo imported to American shores. To move those goods more quickly and cheaply, cargo ships have grown nearly four times bigger–and many are now too large to fit through the Panama Canal.

A $5.25 billion expansion project, scheduled for completion this year, will create two new lock complexes and a third lane of traffic. The new Panama Canal will be roomy enough for boats nearly three times the current maximum size.

Approximately 52 percent of container ships that leave Asia for the East Coast today opt to traverse the arguably less secure Suez Canal, which cuts through Egypt to connect the Mediterranean and Red Seas. The Panama Canal’s upgrade may soon bring the bulk of intercontinental traffic its way. The expansion will shake up shipping patterns and make trade more efficient by requiring less time, fuel, and money to get more products to U.S. ports–just as the original canal’s opening did in 1914. …



Washington Post says daylight “savings” time doesn’t mean savings. 

Back in 1784, hanging out in Paris and heady with Enlightenment, Benjamin Franklin had an idea. Struck by the fact that Parisians were sleeping during sunlight hours and then staying up late at night by candlelight, he calculated the number of candles that were being wasted — and came up with an impressive number, 64 million pounds worth of them. Franklin therefore jokingly proposed a massive schedule change, noting that a fortune could be saved through “the economy of using sunshine instead of candles,” and even suggested at one point that perhaps cannons be fired at sunrise to get everybody out of bed.

Such was the germ of the idea that would eventually lead to daylight saving time — that if we patterned our lives to rise and set with the sun itself, we’d save energy and money. Flash forward 230 years later, and this remains the basic reason why many of us will wake up Sunday and realize that it’s darker outside than we’re used to. After “falling back” in November to standard time — setting our clocks back an hour — we’ll have sprung forward, adopting daylight savings time. Daylight savings moves an hour of light we had in the morning to the evening, which may make us a little groggy Sunday but at least promises to end the miserable practice of leaving work in the dark.

But there’s a problem with this (well-lit) practice. It is increasingly looking like Franklin’s idea about saving energy was wrong. …



CBS News had pictures of chunks of ice washed up on the shore of Wellfleet in Cape Cod. More likely, these are chunks of snow tossed into Boston harbor from the Boston Snow Party.

The historic winter of 2015 has left giant chunks of ice on the Cape Cod National Seashore.

Cape Cod photographer Dapixara captured images of a person standing next to the massive pieces of ice that washed ashore in Wellfleet over the past few days. …

March 10, 2015

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We can’t get our eyes off the trainwreck that is the Hillary campaign. Ron Fournier is at it again.

“Follow the money.” That apocryphal phrase, attributed to Watergate whistle-blower “Deep Throat,” explains why the biggest threat to Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential dreams is not her emails. It’s her family foundation. That’s where the money is: corporate money, foreign money, gobs of money sloshing around a vanity charity that could be renamed “Clinton Conflicts of Interest Foundation.”

What about the emails? Hillary Clinton’s secret communications cache is a bombshell deserving of full disclosure because of her assault on government transparency and electronic security. But its greatest relevancy is what the emails might reveal about any nexus between Clinton’s work at State and donations to the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation from U.S. corporations and foreign nations.

Under fire, Bill Clinton said his namesake charity has “done a lot more good than harm”—hardly a ringing endorsement. One of his longest-serving advisers, a person who had worked directly for the foundation, told me the “longtime whispers of pay-to-play are going to become shouts.” This person, a Clinton loyalist and credible source, has no evidence of wrongdoing but said the media’s suspicions are warranted. “The emails are a related but secondary scandal,” the source said. “Follow the foundation money.” …

… What did these companies and countries expect in return for their cash? Did the Clintons promise any favors? Those are fair questions—not partisan questions and not media “gotcha” questions. The Clintons are responsible for the management of their foundation. Hillary Clinton is responsible for stashing her emails in a secret server. She is running for president. The rest of us should follow the money.



NY Post OpEd follows the logic.

Here’s the bottom line of the latest HillaryWorld scandals: Clinton Inc. embodies what’s wrong with America.

It’s about getting stinking rich from the inside connections forged in a life of public service.

It’s about using your “charity” and your high government office as adjuncts of your political machine.

It’s about refusing to play by the rules even as you want to set the rules for everyone else.

Start with the latest shocker, the email lunacy. You don’t get to keep your government work a secret from the government.

Anyone with a regular job gets it: Your work product belongs to the folks who sign your paycheck. How can that not be even more obvious when the signature is Uncle Sam’s?

That the question never occurred to Hillary is just one more sign of her overinflated sense of entitlement — as is the fact that she set the whole thing up right when she was taking the job.

And that none of her staff at State ever raised a question tells you what a pack of flunkies she gathered ’round herself.

(I mean, she installed the private email server in her home. Who, other than exiled Nigerian princes looking for our help, does that?) …



Peter Wehner thinks one of the worst effects of Emailgate is the all the Clinton flacks that assault our senses. 

Good grief.

Over the last few days we’ve seen one former Clinton aide and acolyte after another come out of the woodwork to defend yet another Clinton from yet another series of scandals.

It’s like a tired, awful syndicated series that’s been cancelled but just won’t go away.

In one corner, it was Lanny Davis being methodically taken apart by Fox News’s Chris Wallace. In another corner was the Ragin’ Cajun, James Carville, whining about “cockamamie right wing talking points” being responsible for this story. (The New York Times is well known, of course, for writing its stories based on right-wing talking points.) And what would Old Home Week be without the man Jon Stewart once pounded to dust, the always classy Paul Begala, insisting that voters “do not give a sh*t. They do not even give a fart” about the story that Mrs. Clinton set up a private email account while she was Secretary of State. If those three weren’t enough, there was the right-wing-hit-man-turned-left-wing-hit-man, David Brock, appearing on MSNBC’s Morning Joe to defend Mrs. Clinton.

Watching these men react like trained seals is pathetic, causing a wave of Clinton Fatigue to once again wash over America. But it’s also poignant, at least to this degree: The Clintons have a long history of pulling people, including some undoubtedly decent people, into their orbit–and once having done so, sending them out to defend the Clintons’ various and sundry corruptions. And that, in turn, has a corrupting effect on the Clintons’ defenders. …



Ed Morrissey provides an example of Clinton defenders.

If people want a peek at the defense on the e-mail scandal that will come from Team Hillary will mount — sans Hillary Clinton, at least for a while — check out this exchange between Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace and longtime Clintonland figure Lanny Davis. His very presence on FNS shows just how much Hillary wants to stand up for herself, and after watching this exchange, it’s pretty clear why. Davis insists that Hillary didn’t do anything illegal, but also that she did nothing wrong, and Wallace can’t believe it: …



Roger Simon says America is being tested.

… Okay, what’s clear is the American public is being given a test.  Are they going to elect Hillary Clinton, a serial liar who purposefully hides her communications from the public and the government she is supposed to be leading while making Foundation deals with Qatar and Algeria in the middle of a war against militant Islam?  If they do that, after everything that has been revealed and is going to be revealed, after Benghazi during which this deeply immoral woman was able to tell the father of a man who was just murdered in a now proven jihadi terror attack that “they would get that man who made that video,” we are all screwed. I don’t know what we can do.  Head to Texas and help it secede? …



And Seth Mandel says the “Hillary as champion of women” narrative is beginning to unravel. 

Hillary Clinton’s decision to base her 2016 presidential campaign on the fact that she’s a she is running into some problems. DNC vice chairwoman Donna Brazile wrote last week that “This time, Hillary will run as a woman.” Brazile said Hillary spent “much of her 2008 campaign seemingly running away from the fact that she is a woman,” and that this time she’s clearly made the decision to run toward her womanity. Whatever that means in practice, the recent Clinton Foundation scandals have converged with her unimpressive record as secretary of state to complicate the narrative.

Last week I wrote about Carly Fiorina’s longshot candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination, highlighting her CPAC speech and her effective line of attack against Hillary Clinton. We’re now seeing just how effective it is. Two of Fiorina’s sound bites in particular stand out. Of Clinton, she said: “She tweets about women’s rights in this country, and takes money from governments that deny women the most basic human rights.” And: “Like Mrs. Clinton, I too have traveled the globe. Unlike Mrs. Clinton, I know that flying is an activity, not an accomplishment.”

Those attacks have now found their way into a New York Times story on the hypocrisy of Hillary talking up women’s rights while her foundation was accepting hefty donations from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and other countries with poor records on women’s rights. And it threatens to turn the Hillary campaign’s entire raison d’être into a liability.

From the Times’s Amy Chozick: …



Apologies for this day of more Hillary stuff. We promise to follow some other stories tomorrow. It is interesting though, to see the left/media trying to move her out of the way. They know she’s toxic and they need to sideline her before she’s the nominee and they go down to sure defeat. For example there is no more reliable Dem clown in the media than Eugene Robinson. The title of his column yesterday was “Is Hillary Hiding Something?” A NY Times reporter has even started to hint about Hillary’s drinking. They want her to go away.

March 9, 2014

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Yesterday was Bibi’s speech day. Today is Hillary’s day. And luckily, it’s beginning to look like we might not have many more of these. Mark Steyn goes first again.

Re; President-Designate Clinton not using a government email address for her entire tenure as Secretary of State, a reader from Oregon writes:

“When I got my security training at the State Department in 2012 using a private email account was considered to be a security risk. A Lack of public record is one thing but communicating Top Secret material without secure communication is a crime. Note that Petraeus is pleading guilty for less.”

Well, as I said yesterday, to the Clintons rules are for the little people – like General Petraeus. I don’t doubt that using your own email is a security risk, and I would bet that somewhere out there on the planet the Chinese, the Russians, the Norks and/or Isis have plenty of fascinating Hillary emails on Benghazi and a lot of other stuff US archivists will never see.

But she did it to evade public scrutiny. I wrote previously that what the Times calls a “personal” email account is, in fact, a secret account – and consciously created as such: The domain was apparently registered on the first day of her Senate confirmation hearing.



Then we’ll get a couple of comments from left/liberal/media types like Ron Fournier, who says maybe it’s time for HRC to retire her White House idea. The email revelations have opened a flood gate of liberals who say they’ve had enough.

Perhaps Hillary Rodham Clinton shouldn’t run for president.

Maybe she should stay at the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation, where the former secretary of State could continue her life’s work of building stronger economies, health care systems, and families. Give paid speeches. Write best-selling books. Spend time with Charlotte, her beloved granddaughter.

Because she doesn’t seem ready for 2016. Like a blast of wintry air in July, the worst of 1990s-style politics is intruding on what needs to be a new millennium campaign: Transparent, inspirational, innovative, and beyond ethical reproach. 

Two weeks ago, we learned that the Clinton Foundation accepted contributions from foreign countries. Assurances from the Obama administration and Clinton aides that no donations were made during her tenure as secretary of State were proven false. 

I called the actions sleazy and stupid. Sleazy because any fair-minded person would suspect the foreign countries of trying to buy Clinton’s influence. Stupid because the affair plays into a decades-old knock on the Clintons: They’ll cut any corner for campaign cash. In the 1990s, Bill Clinton and his top aides used the White House as a tool to court and reward big donors. 

Now The New York Times is reporting that Clinton used a personal email account to conduct government business as secretary of State, an apparent violation of federal requirements that her records be retained. …




The day after Ron Fournier wrote the above, Hillary tweeted she wanted everyone to read her email. Fournier responded

A cornered Clinton is a craven Clinton, which is why we should view Hillary Rodham Clinton’s latest public relations trick with practiced skepticism. “I want the public to see my email,” she tweeted Wednesday night. “I asked State to release them. They said they will review them for release as soon as possible.”

If she wants us to see her email, why did she create a secret account stored on a dark server registered at her home? 

If she wants us to see her email, why didn’t she give State all of her email rather than a self-censored fraction of the correspondence?

If she wants us to see her email, Clintonshould turn over every word written on her dark account(s) for independent vetting. Let somebody the public trusts decide which emails are truly private and which ones belong to the public. 

Like everything else about the response to this controversy, Clinton’s tweet is reminiscent of the 1990s, when her husband’s White House overcame its wrongdoing by denying the truth, blaming Republicans, and demonizing and bullying the media. It’s a shameless script, unbecoming of a historic figure who could be our next president – and jarringly inappropriate for these times. …



Next left/liberal/media type to column on the emails was Maureen Dowd.

… The Times’s Michael Schmidt reported that, as secretary of state, Hillary did not preserve her official correspondence on a government server and exclusively used a private email account. She used a private server linked to her Chappaqua home, only turning over cherry-picked messages in December at the State Department’s request.

Given the paranoid/legalese perspective that permeates Clintonland, this made sense: It’s hard to request emails from an account you don’t know exists. And your own server can shield you from subpoenas and other requests. If you want records from the Clinton server, you have to fight for them. Clinton Inc. can tough it out and even make stuff disappear. Instead of warning the secretary that she could be violating regulations, her aides fetishized her account as a status symbol. Chelsea took on the pseudonym Diane Reynolds.

Near midnight on Wednesday, Hillary tweeted that she had asked the State Department to release the emails she had coughed up when pressed, noting: “I want the public to see my email.”

Less true words were never spoken. …



Finally, Kevin Williamson lets it all hang out.

As secretary of state, Hillary Clinton schemed to subvert record-keeping and transparency rules for reasons that are probably more or less communicated by her surname: The Clintons are creeps and liars and scoundrels and misfits, always have been, always will be. They are the penicillin-resistant syphilis of American politics. The Democrats’ response to Herself’s trouble has taken three main forms: 1) What she did wasn’t technically illegal, says David Brock and other slavish Clinton retainers, even hauling out that old Al Gore classic, “no controlling legal authority”; 2) What about Scott Walker, huh? say the Democratic-party operators, pointing out that as a county executive Walker also used a private email system — and, to be honest, Walker’s response to the terrorist assault on Milwaukee County’s consulate in Benghazi has never been explained to my satisfaction; and 3) the president repeats his favorite mantra:

Wuddint me!

As Politico put it: “White House press secretary Josh Earnest took care to point out that Obama himself was unaware of any issues with Clinton’s email.” And that declaration from the president’s wildly inaptronymic spokesweasel might very well be true: The president has minions for that sort of thing. But he is responsible for the conduct of his minions, and it is impossible to believe that none of them knew about Mrs. Clinton’s “homebrew” email system, because that would require us to believe that nobody ever said, “Hey, CC the secretary of state personally on that internal memo,” or “Email the secretary of state about that meeting.” Oh, but the president, our national lightworker, he didn’t know!

One of the unfortunate facets of our increasingly religious attitude toward the presidency is that we invest the question of whether the divine imperator himself was aware of a situation with great moral weight: Not a sparrow falls, etc. Still, we call it an “administration” for a reason, and Barack Obama is the chief administrator of the executive branch. But he sits in a lofty place, and the principle of fecal gravity must be intensely attractive when viewed from such a great height. …

March 8, 2015

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More on Netanyahu’s speech. This time from Mark Steyn

Our leftie friends at Mother Jones put it this way:

“Benjamin Netanyahu just mansplained Iran to Obama.”

Er, okay. Glad you said that because there’d be no end to it if some rightie guy sneered that Obama was our first female president.

For what it’s worth, I prefer mansplaining to ‘Bamsplaining, where he peddles a lot of gaseous pap interrupted by cheap digs at straw men and all delivered in that set-your-watch-by-it left-right prompter-swivel. (To stick with the Mother Jones shtick, real men don’t use prompters.)

But, if this was “mansplaining”, it was a big man doing the ‘splaining. The shout-out to Harry Reid, the “my long-time friend John Kerry” schmoozeroo, all this was brilliant – not because everyone doesn’t understand how fake it is, but because the transparent fakery underlines how easy it is to be big and generous and magnaninmous and get the snippy parochial stuff out of the way to concentrate on what really matters.

Obama could have done this. He could have said yesterday, “Hey, my good friend Bibi and I don’t see eye to eye on everything, but I’d have to be an awfully thin-skinned insecure narcissistic little dweeb to make that a capital offense, wouldn’t I? So, since he’s in town anyway, I’ve asked him to swing by the White House for an hour to shoot the breeze – and maybe we can have that dinner we missed out on the last time, right, Prime Minister? Hur-hur-hur.” …



And Jennifer Rubin.

Looking over the past week, it is hard to miss how unfavorably President Obama compares to other world leaders. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with excessive graciousness toward his tormentor, gave a powerful, important address. His clarity and presence command our attention. When Obama sneered at a press avail that there was nothing new in Netanyahu’s remarks, he looked so very small, so very petty. …

… It is not just Israel’s leader who regularly proves to be more clear-headed and inspiring than Obama. Consider Czech President Milos Zemen, who declared at AIPAC this week: “The CzechRepublic has been the single island of democracy in central Europe. And [Israel] is the single island of democracy in the Middle East. …

… Then there is Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, a brave and stalwart friend of the United States and of Israel. In a speech in Israel last year, Harper had this to say about the BDS movement (recall that Secretary of State John Kerry said that if Israel didn’t make a deal with the Palestinians, there’d be nothing to stop the BDS movement’s growth.)

“Some civil-society leaders today call for a boycott of Israel. … Most disgracefully of all, some openly call Israel an apartheid state. Think about that. Think about the twisted logic and outright malice behind that. A state, based on freedom, democracy and the rule of law, that was founded so Jews can flourish as Jews, and seek shelter from the shadow of the worst racist experiment in history. That is condemned, and that condemnation is masked in the language of anti-racism. It is nothing short of sickening.” …



Charles Krauthammer has more.

… It was an important moment, especially because of the libel being perpetrated by some that Netanyahu is trying to get America to go to war with Iran. This is as malicious a calumny as Charles Lindbergh’s charge on Sept. 11, 1941, that “the three most important groups who have been pressing this country toward war are the British, the Jewish and the Roosevelt administration.”

In its near-70 year history, Israel has never once asked America to fight for it. Not in 1948 when 650,000 Jews faced 40 million Arabs. Not in 1967 when Israel was being encircled and strangled by three Arab armies. Not in 1973 when Israel was on the brink of destruction. Not in the three Gaza wars or the two Lebanon wars.

Compare that to a very partial list of nations for which America has fought and for which so many Americans have fallen: Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Vietnam, Korea, and every West European country beginning with France (twice).

Change the deal, strengthen the sanctions, give Israel a free hand. Netanyahu offered a different path in his clear, bold and often moving address, Churchillian in its appeal to resist appeasement. This was not Churchill of the 1940s, but Churchill of the 1930s, the wilderness prophet. Which is why for all its sonorous strength, Netanyahu’s speech had a terrible poignancy. After all, Churchill was ignored.



Karl Rove is next.

… It is interesting that Mr. Obama’s antipathy has recently been focused not on the planet’s most evil regimes, including Iran, but on America’s most dependable ally, Israel, a vibrant nation that is a champion of liberty and human rights and a beacon of freedom in a sea of oppression.

The president’s behavior has provided ample additional evidence that he lacks the skills and patience to deal with allies with whom he disagrees. He and his team of public-relations geniuses couldn’t have bungled this affair worse had they tried.



Jonathan Tobin posts on Tom Friedman’s recycled slurs.

… Friedman concludes his piece by saying that it “rubs me the wrong way” to see a foreign leader pointing out the mistakes of an American president in front of Congress. But in that paragraph he lets us on to his real problem with the speech and the entire discussion about Iran: the existence of a solid pro-Israel coalition in Congress that thinks Netanyahu’s concerns are worth a hearing. Friedman says, “I have a problem with my own Congress howling in support of a flawed foreign leader.”

With this phrase he reminds us of his reaction to Netanyahu’s last speech to Congress in 2011. At that time, Friedman couldn’t restrain his bile and claimed that the ovations the prime minister received were “bought and paid for by the Israel lobby,” a smear that was reminiscent of the Walt-Mearsheimer thesis about a vast Jewish conspiracy controlling U.S. foreign policy to benefit Israel. The point of that thinly disguised piece of anti-Semitic invective was to delegitimize supporters of Israel who had the temerity to back Netanyahu against the Obama administration’s assault on the alliance between the two democracies.

Friedman didn’t go quite as far as that sort of libel this time though his contempt for a Congress “howling” in support of Netanyahu betrayed his animus. But he did let down his hair a bit in an interview with Israel’s Channel 2. Friedman claimed the only reason Netanyahu received tumultuous applause for his brilliant speech was that he was speaking in “Sheldon’s world” a reference to casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, a leading Jewish philanthropist and pro-Israel political donor.

Whatever you may think of Adelson’s politics, the point of that comment is to reintroduce Friedman’s 2011 slur about Congress being purchased by a ruthless Jewish minority. This is a classic anti-Semitic trope in which Jews are accused of using money to insinuate themselves into power and subverting the interests of the nation in favor of their own agenda. It is, of course, pure tripe, since support for Israel is overwhelming throughout the country and undiminished by either the media barrage against Netanyahu or the efforts of the administration to distance itself from the Jewish state.

Friedman then claimed that had Netanyahu spoken to the real America, rather than the Congress that is supposedly owned by the Jews, he would have gotten a different response. His example of a real American venue is the University of Wisconsin. It’s true that if Netanyahu or any friend of Israel were to speak at a leftist enclave such as the one in Madison, they would not be cheered. But who, other than Friedman, actually thinks that opinion there is representative of anything but the prejudices of liberal academics.

But the truth is, as a poll suggests, most Americans agree with Netanyahu on Iran, not Obama or Friedman. That’s why Friedman’s canard about Congress, Adelson and the “Israel lobby” is a lie. But like Obama’s Iran policy, Friedman is as undaunted by the prospect of repeating untruths about Israel as his newspaper is unashamed about printing them.

March 5, 2015

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“Bibi’s Grand Slam” says John Podhoretz

On Tuesday, Bibi Netanyahu gave the speech of his life before a joint session of Congress — and he has Barack Obama to thank for it.

Yes, the very same Barack Obama who hates Bibi, the same Obama who was furious the speech was being given at all, walked the bases full for Netanyahu and served up the sucker pitch he hit for a grand slam.

For six weeks, the president and his team have been letting it be known just how angry they are that the leader of the House of Representatives invited the Israeli prime minister to speak about the threat from Iran.

The enraged leaks and overt hostility toward the head of state of an ally have been unprecedented.

The White House even tried to engineer a mass Democratic boycott of the speech, an effort that either (take your pick) met with success because 50 members of his party agreed to it, or was a failure because 75 percent of elected Democrats on Capitol Hill defied him and chose to attend.

What did all of this do? It made the Netanyahu speech the most important political event of 2015 by far.

It elevated Netanyahu’s powerful case against a nuclear deal with Iran to the highest level possible — so that the leader of a country of 8 million people roughly the size of New Jersey now possesses as much authority to discuss the issue as the leader of the free world. …



Andrew Malcolm also had kudos for Netanyahu’s speech.

Well, now we all can understand why unidentified Obama aides sought so hard to cancel, delay, snipe and ultimately undermine Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to a joint meeting of Congress Tuesday.

In his idiomatic English and speaking as a friend, Israel’s superior spokesman firmly delivered an eloquent, detailed and damning 3,900-word indictment of both Iran and the sell-out nuclear deal that the Obama administration is in the closing stages of drafting in Geneva. Netanyahu’s delivery was Churchillian. Indeed, the 65-year-old former special forces captain just became only the second foreign leader after Sir Winston to address Congress three times.

Despite dozens of Democrats boycotting the 40-minute address, the House chamber was packed with extra folding chairs squeezed in by pages. Netanyahu spoke with a broad historical stroke. He moved smoothly from Biblical times to the Holocaust to Iran’s provocative military exercises this week. He talked of centrifuges and even quoted Robert Frost.

The prime minister was interrupted by applause some 40 times. He was alternately moving, exhortatory, almost angry, determined and humble and grateful to both Americans and, surprisingly, Barack Obama, whom he praised profusely for his aid to Israel.

Embarrassingly, the American president could not find it in his conniving heart to rise above his innate political pettiness. In a forced photo-op, Obama spent 11 minutes claiming dismissively that he did not even watch the address. …



The increasing lack of economic mobility in our country is the subject of a long form essay by Yuval Levin. It’s close to 5,000 words, but worthwhile. And, at least it is the end of our week. We have taken particular care with the pull quotes which themselves total 2,000 words, so at least they provide a shorter alternative.

We Americans have always prided ourselves on the extraordinary degree of mobility this country has long made possible for its citizens—the idea that, with hard work and a little luck, an immigrant or a child of poor parents can start out with nothing and end up successful and rich. We still believe this about ourselves: International comparisons of public opinion find that Americans express far greater confidence than citizens of other developed nations that hard work is rewarded and that everyone has a real chance to rise out of poverty. But in fact, by many measures, the United States actually does not stand out among advanced economies in terms of economic mobility, and it has not for decades.

Many of us surely sense this even if we do not know all the facts and figures. There is a divergence between what many Americans want to believe about their country and what they know to be true about the way they and their friends and family live now. Americans at the bottom of the income scale do not have enough opportunities to move up, Americans in the middle feel stuck, younger Americans are having trouble getting started, and Americans in general seem less inclined to follow after opportunities. These various challenges are all distinct, but they stem from the same core problem: immobility.

The degradation of this central aspect of the so-called American dream is finally beginning to take shape as a potent political issue. The headline of a front-page story in the Washington Post in January put its finger on an increasingly evident shift in our economic debates: “Both parties agree: Economic mobility will be a defining theme of 2016 campaign.”

That the two parties would agree even on the subject of our economic arguments is quite a change from recent years, when they have mostly been talking past each other. And more remarkable still is that they seem to have turned to the right subject, too. Serious attention to the state of economic mobility could help us overcome the peculiar mix of acrimony and nostalgia that has enveloped our politics since this century began and could help us see far more clearly some of the most pressing challenges our country now confronts. …


… Relative mobility refers to a person’s economic status in relation to the nation as a whole. Economists often describe it in terms of moving up the income quintiles—the five slices of the American pie that measure the economic division in the country from poorest to richest—while the rest of us tend to think of it in the form of rags-to-riches stories. Can someone born in poverty today rise into the middle class and beyond it? Does the child of a middle-class family stand a reasonable chance of ending up wealthy? Or are people destined to end up roughly where they start?

For most of American history, these questions would have been answered in a manner flattering to the country’s own sense of itself as the world’s beacon of opportunity. No longer. By some measures, in fact, in terms of relative mobility, we are now lagging behind Canada and much of northern Europe. …


… Why, then, have our anxieties about mobility intensified only recently? The answer can be found in the state of absolute mobility, which tells a more complicated story. Absolute mobility involves changes in people’s living standards not relative to society as a whole but relative to their own past or to the prior generation. Are you better off than you were four years ago? Are you wealthier than your parents were at your age?

By this measure, America looks rather good over the long run but rather bad over a shorter run—and the difference is why mobility has now become a priority. Data from the Pew Economic Mobility Project show that the vast majority of Americans, about 84 percent, now have a higher income than their parents did at their age, adjusted for both inflation and family size. Such intergenerational absolute mobility is actually highest among the poor: Fully 93 percent of Americans in the lowest fifth of earners have higher incomes and greater purchasing power than their parents did at their age, compared with 70 percent of Americans in the top fifth. Overall American living standards have risen over time, and this has lifted essentially everyone’s living standards some, even if it has not done much to change people’s relative positions in society.

But the significance of this good news is limited in two ways that will help us to clarify the mobility challenge as policymakers must now confront it. First, strong absolute mobility amid weak relative mobility means that while people are more comfortable where they are in life, they are not moving ahead in skills or status. The mother working long days behind a restaurant counter in the expectation that her children should have better opportunities than she did would not be satisfied to hear that her children will be a little better paid for working behind that same counter all their lives.

Second, and perhaps most important, absolute mobility has declined significantly in the last two decades, so that while most Americans are doing better than their parents did at the same age, they are often not doing as well as similarly situated families (and maybe even their own families) were doing ten or even 20 years ago. This is the most pressing way in which many Americans are feeling the sting of immobility these days, with stagnant wages creating the sense that they’re running in place.

The simplest way to illustrate this trend is to consider the median family. Adjusted for inflation and expressed in 2013 dollars, the median American family income was $52,432 in 1989 and $51,939 in 2013, according to Census Bureau data. In other words, the purchasing power of the median family has actually declined a little over the course of the last quarter century. …


… What, then, might a response look like? Having sharpened our sense of the problem a little, it may be helpful to think in terms of five categories of steps that policymakers could take, at least for a start.

The first is the most general and the easiest for Republicans to embrace: growth. Because growth is a necessary if not sufficient condition for improved economic mobility, policymakers need to create and sustain the right environment for economic dynamism.

This means a growth-friendly tax code, …


… The second category of needed reforms would seek to address persistently low mobility among poor and lower-middle-class Americans. It involves clearing up bottlenecks, often created by public policy, which hold people back from pursuing opportunity and prosperity. A bottleneck is a particular kind of obstacle: It is a function of a narrowing of options. The upward path into and through the middle class has clearly gotten narrower in America in recent decades.

One primary culprit is our higher-education system. A college degree has become an increasingly essential ticket into middle-class life even as higher education has grown more expensive and less edifying. Tuition costs have tripled over the past three decades, so that an average year of college now costs about half the annual income of the average American family. …


… The third facet of a mobility agenda would involve lifting burdens imposed on the middle class and the poor by some perverse incentives and distortions in today’s welfare state. For instance, the structure of our entitlement and tax systems means that parents are overtaxed—paying for today’s entitlements while bearing the costs of sustaining tomorrow’s. A significant increase in the child tax credit that could reduce families’ payroll-tax burdens as well as their income-tax burdens would make an enormous difference to millions of middle-class families pressed by stagnating wages. And such tax relief for families would be a natural companion to the corporate tax reform necessary for stronger growth.

The unintentional marriage penalties in the tax code also burden many middle-class families, and similar penalties in most welfare programs (from the Earned Income Tax Credit to Medicaid, food stamps, and others) create disincentives to marriage that hurt the poor and counteract the very aims of these programs. No less perversely, many means-tested aid programs create disincentives to work, since working leads to benefit cuts that in many cases can outweigh the appeal of earned income. Correcting such disincentives would be no simple matter, but a number of conservatives have proposed promising ideas for doing so in recent years. …


… The fourth element of a mobility agenda would go beyond lifting burdens and focus on the most difficult and important part of the mobility puzzle: the curse of entrenched poverty. This would involve the next stage of welfare reform, and it’s the arena where a conservative approach to problem solving can do the most good.

The overwhelming fact about our half century of intense and costly efforts to combat entrenched poverty is that they have not worked. …

… This was the essence of Paul Ryan’s anti-poverty proposal last year. Ryan would let states choose to replace the full amount of money they now receive to administer means-tested federal welfare programs (such as food stamps, housing assistance, utilities subsidies, and others) with a single, consolidated “opportunity grant.” They could then develop their own approaches to spending the money to help their poor residents rise, provided that these approaches involve programs that require work, emphasize reaching self-sufficiency, and prove their effectiveness over time. And states would have to provide each service through at least two competing providers, only one of which can be a state agency.

Liberals tend to see proposals like this as embodiments of some kind of fetish to privatize. But in fact, they are expressions of humility. Experimentation is what you do when you do not know the answer. …


… Finally, the fifth element of a conservative mobility agenda should involve drawing a clear distinction between welfare assistance and disability benefits. In particular, the Social Security Disability Insurance program has come to function as a kind of welfare system of last resort, but it is very badly suited to that purpose. The share of working-age adults on SSDI has more than doubled since 1980, from 2.3 percent to 5 percent of the workforce, or about 9 million Americans. The increase is quickly bankrupting the program (its trust fund will be depleted next year) while contributing to the decline in workforce participation in America.

Part of the increase is driven by the aging of the population, as many baby boomers are now in the age range most prone to disabling injuries and health problems. But the actual prevalence of disability in the working-age population has grown at nowhere near the rate of SSDI claims. …


…These are, of course, only the barest outlines of an agenda. But these five categories of steps—sustaining an environment for growth, clearing up bottlenecks, removing policy burdens, enabling vigorous experimentation in welfare and education, and separating welfare from disability support—offer the beginning of a conservative answer to the riddle of mobility.

Conservatives are far better positioned than liberals to take up the challenge of mobility. The left is wedded to the structure of our welfare state and persuaded that moving money around will address the problems we confront. But when we consider the particulars of the mobility puzzle, we can see that what is missing—as the very term mobility suggests—is not so much money as dynamism and energy. Injecting our economy with such energy requires us to allow more Americans to benefit from our free-market system, rather than shielding people from it, and would therefore require us to move beyond the liberal welfare state rather than expand it. …


… In a message to Congress on the Fourth of July, 1861, amid the painful early setbacks of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln sought to articulate what made the struggle worthwhile. When it came to describing what we valued in our government, Lincoln said this:

On the side of the Union it is a struggle for maintaining in the world that form and substance of government whose leading object is to elevate the condition of men—to lift artificial weights from all shoulders, to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all, to afford all an unfettered start and a fair chance, in the race of life. Yielding to partial and temporary departures from necessity, this is the leading object of the government for whose existence we contend.

America has often been gloriously successful in advancing that cause, but it has been notably less so in recent decades. We have ignored that fact for too long and must now work to ensure that the rhetorical turn toward mobility in our national politics is followed up with substance and action.

March 4, 2015

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From National Journal’s Jim Oliphant we have an early look at a left/liberal media reaction to Netanyahu’s speech before congress. 

Congressional Republicans haven’t had many victories in their lasting conflict with President Obama, but Tuesday brought one. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s somber, provocative speech to Congress checked all the boxes. 

It called into question the efficacy of any deal the administration might strike with Iran over its nuclear program; it likely renewed momentum for another round of Iranian sanctions on the Hill; it positioned the GOP politically as the party more worried about Israeli security, and, despite the White House’s best efforts, made the president appear petty and churlish. 

Obama, in an interview with Reuters, had dismissed the speech as a “distraction,” and aides made sure everyone knew he would be too busy to watch it. But if the president didn’t cast an eye at a TV, he might have been the only person in Washington not to. And that’s the problem.

For weeks, the White House has worked steadily to write the speech off as a thinly veiled Republican ploy to undermine the delicate negotiations with Iran. But network coverage treated it for what it was: the head of state of a critical ally delivering a controversial address on American soil. That served the interests of both House Speaker John Boehner, who was the impetus behind the speech, and Netanyahu, elevating both of them while key Democrats such as Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren stayed offstage. 

Netanyahu was hailed in the House chamber like a conquering hero. …



Charles Krauthammer writes on the fatal flaw in the Iran deal.

The news from the nuclear talks with Iran was already troubling. Iran was being granted the “right to enrich.” It would be allowed to retain and spin thousands of centrifuges. It could continue construction of the Arak plutonium reactor. Yet so thoroughly was Iran stonewalling International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors that just last Thursday the IAEA reported its concern “about the possible existence in Iran of undisclosed . . . development of a nuclear payload for a missile.”

Bad enough. Then it got worse: News leaked Monday of the elements of a “sunset clause.” President Obama had accepted the Iranian demand that any restrictions on its program be time-limited. After which, the mullahs can crank up their nuclear program at will and produce as much enriched uranium as they want.

Sanctions lifted. Restrictions gone. Nuclear development legitimized. Iran would reenter the international community, as Obama suggested in an interview in December, as “a very successful regional power.” A few years — probably around 10 — of good behavior and Iran would be home free.

The agreement thus would provide a predictable path to an Iranian bomb. Indeed, a flourishing path, with trade resumed, oil pumping and foreign investment pouring into a restored economy.

Meanwhile, Iran’s intercontinental ballistic missile program is subject to no restrictions at all. It’s not even part of these negotiations. …



Streetwise Prof posts on Iran negotiations.

John Kerry actually said this:”[Kerry] insisted the Obama administration’s diplomatic record with Iran entitles the U.S. to ‘the benefit of the doubt.’” Seriously? The administration that is synonymous with foreign policy failure-the Reset, Libya (including but not limited to Benghazi), Syria, Iraq/Isis, Yemen, to name just the most egregious examples-deserves the benefit of the doubt? Why exactly? Do we look that stupid? It’s like Hoover asking Dean Woermer to give Delta House one last chance at the end of Animal House, while chaos is rampant on the streets of Faber. Or the Apprentice asking the Sorcerer for just one more try with the brooms. He’ll nail it this time! Promise!

I wrote several posts eviscerating Obama’s risible, not to say mendacious, claim that oil transported via Keystone would be exported. Apparently the odor emanating from Obama’s full-of-it-iveness was so obvious that even reliable lefty “fact checker” Glenn Kessler couldn’t ignore it. So he awarded Obama’s Keystone claim a cherished Four Pinnochios. This was pretty good:

“When Obama first started making the claim that the crude oil in the Keystone pipeline would bypass the United States, we wavered between Three and Four Pinocchios — and strongly suggested he take the time to review the State Department report.

Clearly, the report remains unread.”

Of course it does! It’s not like the truth could trump politics, or anything.



Matthew Continetti posts on the Iran deal.

… What the opponents of a bad deal with Iran have witnessed over the last few months is the transference of Obama’s domestic political strategies to the international stage. A senior administration official is on record likening an Iranian nuclear agreement to Obamacare, and the comparison makes sense not only in the relative importance of the two policies to this president, not only because both policies are terrible and carry within them unforeseen consequences that will not be manifest for years, but also because of the way opponents of both policies are treated by the White House. If they are not ignored or dismissed, their motives are impugned. They are attacked personally, bullied, made examples of.

The alternative to a bad deal is not a better deal or tougher sanctions, Obama says, but war: “Congress should be aware that if this diplomatic solution fails, then the risks and likelihood that this ends up being at some point a military confrontation is heightened, and Congress will have to own that as well, and that will have to be debated by the American people.” The opponents of a nuclear Iran aren’t sincere, Obama explained to Senate Democrats last month, but are merely acting at the behest of their (Jewish) donors. Congress has no role to play in either approving of or enforcing a deal with Iran, John Kerry says, because any attempt to strengthen America’s hand or verify that Iran is in compliance would be like “throwing a grenade” into the meeting room.

As for Netanyahu, he is called “chickenshit” by anonymous sources, the national security adviser says his decision to address Congress is “destructive” of the U.S.-Israel alliance, Kerry tells Congress they shouldn’t listen to Bibi because he voiced wan support for regime change in Iraq (a war that Kerry voted to authorize), the congressional liaison rallies the Congressional Black Caucus to boycott the speech, and the administration leaks to the AP its strategy “to undercut” his speech and “blunt his message that a potential nuclear deal with Iran is bad for Israel and the world.” The strategy includes media appearances and the threat of a “pointed snub” of AIPAC, which has done everything it can over the last several years to ignore or acquiesce to President Obama’s anti-Israel foreign policy. …



Jonathan Tobin has more.

In an interview with Reuters intended as a rebuttal to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech to a joint session of Congress tomorrow, President Obama claims that his critics are not only wrong about his negotiating strategy with Iran, but that they lack one of their own other than to declare war. The attempt to depict his critics as warmongers is a classic Obama straw man. Opponents of his policy do have an alternative: returning to the policy of pressure and sanctions that the president discarded in 2013 which offered the only way, short of the use of force, to force Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions. But the real fallacy here is not so much the typical administration smears of critics. It is the fact that the president has an Iran strategy at all. Having made concession after concession to Iran in the last two years, there is little reason to believe that the current negotiations will stop Iran. To the contrary, the president appears set on a path that ensures that, sooner or later, Iran will get its bomb. …

… The president’s critics can’t be sure that their strategy of a return to sanctions and tough pressure on Iran aimed at bringing the regime to its knees will succeed. But, despite the president’s claims, he never tried it before he prematurely abandoned pressure for appeasement. But we can be almost certain that a strategy that aims at entente with Iran is guaranteed to fail miserably. Indeed, it is not so much a recipe for failure as it is one for a completely different approach to Iran that is ready to acquiesce to their demands.

That is a position that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu does well to protest tomorrow in his speech to Congress. So should Democrats and Republicans who take their pledges to stop Iran more seriously than the president.

March 3, 2015

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Kevin Williamson posts on growing student loan defaults and the leftist politicians like Liz Warren who make excuses for deadbeats.

… American households have been getting their act together on debt, at least a little bit, since the financial crisis and the subsequent recession. Credit-card defaults, after spiking around 2009, have been in decline, as have mortgage defaults and car-loan defaults. Home-equity loans took a little longer to get straightened out, but defaults on those are in decline, too, and have been for some time. (Much more on all that from the New York Fed here.) But one kind of debt default remains stubbornly on the rise: student loans, which in total add up to more than all U.S. credit-card debt and are much more likely to be in default than any other major debt category, far outstripping credit cards in the No. 2 default position.

On Monday, The New Yorker offered a sympathetic report (“A student-loan debt revolt begins”) about 15 former students of Corinthian Colleges, a dodgy and now largely defunct operator of for-profit schools, who intend to stop repaying their student loans as a matter of principle. “They believe that they have both ethical and legal grounds for what appears to be an unprecedented collective action against the debt charged to students who attended Corinthian schools,” writes Vauhini Vara, “and they are also making a broader statement about the trillion dollars of student debt owed throughout the country.” Senator Warren has called on the federal government to simply discharge the debts of former Corinthian students. An Occupy-affiliated organization called Debt Collective is pressing a similar agenda.

What does not seem to have occurred to Senator Warren, to Debt Collective, to the Corinthian 15, or to Vauhini Vara and the editors of The New Yorker is this: The students in question do not owe money to Corinthian Colleges. They owe money to third parties, those being private lenders and the federal government. As an instrument of protest, they might as well stop making their car payments, skip their rent, or boost mocacchinos from Starbucks — the people who lent them money are no more responsible for Corinthian’s woes than are their landlords and baristas.

This is classic leftist misdirection. …



Politico says another member of the left media has to apologize for a Scott Walker hit piece.

Another major media outlet has apologized after getting a story about Scott Walker wrong. Last week, it was the New York Times; now, it’s The Daily Beast.

The Daily Beast has retracted an article from one of its college columnists that claimed that the Wisconsin governor’s budget would cut sexual assault reporting from the state’s universities.

The post, published Friday, cited a report from Jezebel that wrongly interpreted a section of the state budget to mean that all assault reporting requirements were to get cut altogether.

In fact, the University of Wisconsin system requested the deletion of the requirements to get rid of redundancy, as it already provides similar information to the federal government, UW System spokesman Alex Hummel told The Associated Press on Friday. …



Politico also has the story of behind the scenes chaos at the Clinton Foundation. It is beginning to look like the Clinton’s did not raise a brass knuckled street-fighter like themselves. This is a tad long, but an interesting look at the Clinton Foundation scam.

In December, the board of the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation approved a salary of more than $395,000, plus bonus, for its Yale-educated CEO, Eric Braverman, while voting to extend his board term through 2017, according to sources familiar with the arrangement. Braverman, who had worked with Chelsea Clinton at the prestigious McKinsey & Company consultancy, had been brought in with the former first daughter’s support to help impose McKinsey-like management rigor to a foundation that had grown into a $2 billion charitable powerhouse. 

But last month, only weeks after the board’s show of support and just a year-and-a-half after Braverman arrived, he abruptly resigned, and sources tell Politico his exit stemmed partly from a power struggle inside the foundation between and among the coterie of Clinton loyalists who have surrounded the former president for decades and who helped start and run the foundation. Some, including the president’s old Arkansas lawyer Bruce Lindsey, who preceded Braverman as CEO, raised concerns directly to Bill Clinton about the reforms implemented by Braverman, according to sources, and felt themselves marginalized by the growing influence of Chelsea Clinton and the new CEO she had helped recruit. 

The previously untold saga of Braverman’s brief, and occasionally fraught tenure trying to navigate the Clintons’ insular world highlights the challenges the family has faced trying to impose rigorous oversight onto a vast global foundation that relies on some of the same loyal mega-donors Hillary Clinton will need for the presidential run sources have said she is all but certain to launch later this year.

Already, a spate of recent news stories in Politico and elsewhere have highlighted questions about the foundation’s aggressive fundraising both before and during Braverman’s tenure, including the news that the foundation had been accepting contributions from foreign governments with lax oversight from the State Department when Hillary Clinton was secretary of state; the foundation has been Clinton’s main public platform since she left State in February 2013. 

The hiring a few months later of Braverman, who had been a partner in McKinsey’s Washington office, was seen as validation of Chelsea Clinton’s view that the foundation needed to address recommendations from a 2011 audit for tighter governance and budgeting, as well as more comprehensive policies to vet donors and avoid conflicts of interest. …

… Chelsea Clinton’s rise at times has seemed to threaten some veteran Clinton aides who had carved out influential – and lucrative – positions after long service with her parents. She is blamed in some quarters for marginalizing both Lindsey and Doug Band, who rose from the president’s body man to build and help run the foundation’s Clinton Global Initiative. A third Clinton veteran, Ira Magaziner, saw his portfolio at the foundation diminished during Braverman’s tenure, and sources say Magaziner’s role remains under scrutiny. 

Magaziner, who was a Rhodes Scholar with Bill Clinton in the late 1960s and spearheaded Hillary Clinton’s botched healthcare reform push in the 1990s, was paid $415,000 in foundation salary and consulting fees in 2013 to help run two programs, the Clinton Climate Initiative and the Clinton Health Access Initiative. Magaziner left the climate project late last year after Braverman brought in new leadership, but he remains as CEO of the health initiative. The health group’s board – which includes Magaziner – at the end of last year voted unanimously to initiate an internal governance review by the New York law firm Simpson Thacher, according to foundation officials. 

Sources say the review was expected to recommend management improvements. But in a statement sent on behalf of Magaziner, the initiative’s spokeswoman Maura Daley said the review found good fiscal health and “significant programmatic success over the years” and that the initiative’s board, in receiving the report at its last meeting, “expressed strong support for the successful leadership of CHAI.” …



In what has turned into another Hillary day, Jennifer Rubin posts on HRC’s bore-a-thon.

There is only one presidential contender who has nothing to say, at least nothing new or that hasn’t been said for years by others. Speaking to a bunch of privileged, wealthy women in Silicon Valley, Hillary Clinton proclaimed her concern for gender equality and the middle class (generally not defined as people making six figures with stock options). The Post quotes her as saying: “We have to restore economic growth with rising wages for the vast majority of Americans, and we have to restore trust and cooperation within our political system so that we can act like the great country we are.” No — really?! …



And Michael Goodwin says Hillary’s blundering is threatening her chances.

A popular theme on Planet Clinton is that poor Hillary is always in mortal danger of being undone by her charming cad of a hubby. “She can’t control him” is how insiders express their fear that Bubba will have a bimbo eruption and crash the coronation.

On a long list of possibilities, that scenario must be included. But my reading of the Clinton Chronicles points to a much bigger threat to the restoration of the family monarchy.

That would be the stumbling performance of the lady herself.

On top of the tactical blunders, there was an overarching reason why sure victory eluded Hillary Clinton in 2008. She simply was not a very appealing candidate, offering neither charisma nor a compelling message. She ran with a sense of entitlement that the Oval Office was owed to her.

If anything has changed, it’s a well-kept secret. Already, her run this time is marked by mistakes, gaffes and reports of ethical corner-cutting, which adds up to watching the same bad movie twice. …



JenRub also posts on the Dems “bizarre” faith in Hillary.

… If Jeb Bush’s last name was Smith, he might be the hands down leader for the GOP nomination, but if her last name wasn’t Clinton, would she be a lock for the nomination or even the favorite? This is where the Democrats’ attachment to her becomes mystifying. If they want a woman nominee, they have qualified women out there. If they want someone more reliably liberal and more adept on the trail, they could find those candidates also. And yet they cling to Clinton for dear life. Why?

One explanation is that they think she is disingenuous and once in office will show her true liberal stripes. Maybe, but it sure would be safer to find someone who admits to being liberal, has a liberal record and isn’t in league with the left’s economic villains. Alternatively, they might think she is a political behemoth, able to roll over whatever Republican comes her way. Anything to keep the White House, right? But if you look at the items above plus her age and political skills isn’t she a weak candidate?  Frankly, Democrats are acting like Republicans — resigned to give the nomination to the next in line and clueless about her inability to connect with voters. The GOP hopes they don’t figure this out until it’s too late. So if anyone asks, she’s a fabulous candidate, the most qualified person ever!



Ignoring the climate change dreck in this article from BBC News, it is interesting to read about the 5 inch higher sea level north of New York that was caused by a series of storms five years ago. As an example of how wind can push the ocean around remember the “perfect storm” of the fall of 1991. Over a period of four to five days a monster storm sat off the Canadian Maritime provinces. At that time, Pickerhead was spending a lot of time traveling to Aruba for windsurfing off the northwest leeward coast where the trade winds blew across a narrow part of the island creating a windblown flat water paradise. At the time of the perfect storm a friend in Aruba told of incoming surf and three foot above normal tides. This was happening, because the storm off the Canadian coast was blowing the water to Aruba which is just off the coast of Venezuela. That is a distance of almost 2,500 miles. So it is not an earth shattering global warming event to have a series of storms push a lot of water against the New EnglandCoast. 

Sea levels north of New York City rose by 128mm in two years, according to a report in the journal, Nature Communications.

Coastal areas will need to prepare for short term and extreme sea level events, say US scientists.

Climate models suggest extreme sea level rises will become more common this century.

“The extreme sea level rise event during 2009-10 along the northeast coast of North America is unprecedented during the past century,” Prof Jianjun Yin of the University of Arizona told BBC News.

“Statistical analysis indicates that it is a 1-in-850 year event.” …

March 2, 2015

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Roger Simon posts on the new new new anti-Semitism.

Prostitution may be the world’s oldest profession, but anti-Semitism is probably the world’s oldest bigotry. It’s come and gone and come and gone and then come and gone again since the days of the pharaohs.

Well, maybe it was never really gone, but, like cancer, it was in remission.  Born at the end of World War II, I was one of those lucky Jews to be born in a period of remission as never before seen, particularly in the United States.

It’s over.  And how it’s over.  You don’t need a poll to tell you that, but a new one just conducted by TrinityCollege and the LouisD.BrandeisCenter for Human Rights Under Law tells us that 54 percent of self-identified Jewish students in 55 college across the country experienced or witnessed anti-Semitism during the 2013-2014 school year. Whoa! Welcome to the University of Berlin. …



We now have a post by David Harsanyi saying there’s nothing unpatriotic about challenging the president on Iran. Just because it follows Roger Simon’s essay on the new new new anti-Semitism, it does not follow we’re suggesting the same for Barry. He is ignorant, but not necessarily anti-Semitic. He is though, anti-British; which is a perfect example of his ignorance. One of the finest episodes in human history was the success of the anti-slavery movement which started in England with people like William Wilberforce. The eradication of an institution that had been part of history for thousands of years in just a few decades was a major accomplishment. The president’s removal of Churchill’s bust from the oval office upon his first day in office illustrates his ideological shortsightedness, historical stupidity, and the fact his mind was warped by the ”legends” of both his father and his grandfather. That screed aside, we can proceed with Harsanyi.

… And for many on the Left, a nuclear Iran is seen as inevitable or innocuous. James Fallows at The Atlantic has written a string of confused pieces that suggests Iran is not a threat to Israel and argues that anyone attempting to weaken the president’s position in the Iranian negotiations is exhibiting dual loyalties. (You’ll note that supporters of the Jewish State are either cowards who clap for Israeli prime ministers because they are compelled to do so by dark forces, or cowards who are under the spell of wicked special interests.)

Considering Fallows’ views on the Iraq War, he should probably know better. Devotion to Obama is not the same as loyalty to your country. The opposition party, in fact, has a responsibility to disrupt the president’s agenda if they truly believe it’s the wrong path for the nation. This is why we have political parties. And this is why I’m pretty sure many anti-war liberals believe that the Hillary Clintons and John Kerrys of the world failed the country leading up to the Iraq War.

Whereas Obama looks to be comfortable with the expansion of Iranian power with proxies in Syria and Lebanon, our allies in Israel may not feel the same way.

And, since I brought it up, Kerry sure did offer us a draw-dropper yesterday: “The prime minister was profoundly forward-leaning and outspoken about the importance of invading Iraq under George W. Bush,” said former presidential candidate. “We all know what happened with that decision.”

Yes, Netanyahu supported the Iraq War, but he did not send Americans to fight–nor will his upcoming speech. Kerry, on the other hand, engaged in a cynical voted for/voted against charade driven by his own political ambitions. But there is a bigger falsehood–let’s call it presumption–here. Critics of Netanyahu act as if opposing Obama’s Iranian deal is tantamount to declaring war on Iran. In the long run, allowing Iran to become nuclear power may well mean war. We don’t know. …



More from Jennifer Rubin.

… Frankly, the administration’s snit over the Netanyahu speech has rightly been seen as abject panic. The world leader most credible on Iran from the country that 70 percent of Americans support is coming to debunk the plan to let Iran keep its nuclear infrastructure — in direct contravention of the administration’s public statements and private assurances to our allies in the region. The administration’s lame effort to discredit the prime minister and start a partisan rumpus — led by two of the least credible foreign policy officials in recent memory (Susan Rice of “it was a video” fame on the Benghazi attack and John Kerry, whose previously threatened that the United States could not protect Israel unless it made a peace deal) — is nearly as pathetic as its negotiation posture with Iran. It is no wonder that the administration refuses to concede a deal must be approved by Congress. With each passing day, the administration’s credibility slips deeper into the abyss and the likelihood of bipartisan rejection of the Obama-Clinton-Kerry Iran diplomatic debacle increases.



And Streetwise Professor spotted more administration foolishness.

John Kerry has criticized Russian actions in and lies about Ukraine. He hinted that further sanctions could be forthcoming, and that the head of the FSB could be targeted.

Wait a minute. Just last week the head of the FSB was considered a worthy participant in the debate on the subject of terrorism: he headed the Russian delegation to the Countering Violent Extremism Summit. How ludicrous, and schizo, is that? The guy goes from interlocutor to persona non grata in a period of mere days. To quote Casey Stengel: can’t anybody here play this game?

Any sanctions forthcoming will likely have the opposite of the intended effect. Putin will interpret them as demonstrating a lack of seriousness, a token response meant to keep up appearances, rather than as a serious challenge. He will view such actions as a green light, not a yellow let alone a flashing red. He will understand that he faces an irresolute, incoherent, and timorous opposition, and will act accordingly.



For a treat, we have an interview with Camille Paglia in America Magazine. This wanders some, but as with anything associated with Paglia there are  gems.

… Identifying yourself as a “dissident feminist,” you often seem more at home with classical Greek and Roman paganism than with postmodern academia. How has this reality affected your public and professional relationships?

I feel lucky to have taught primarily at art schools, where the faculty are active practitioners of the arts and crafts. I have very little contact with American academics, who are pitifully trapped in a sterile career system that has become paralyzed by political correctness. University faculties nationwide have lost power to an ever-expanding bureaucracy of administrators, whose primary concern is the institution’s contractual relationship with tuition-paying parents. You can cut the demoralized faculty atmosphere with a knife when you step foot on any elite campus. With a few stellar exceptions, the only substantive discourse that I ever have these days is with academics, intellectuals, and journalists abroad.

In your view, what’s wrong with American feminism today, and what can it do to improve?

After the great victory won by my insurgent, pro-sex, pro-fashion wing of feminism in the 1990s, American and British feminism has amazingly collapsed backward again into whining, narcissistic victimology. As in the hoary old days of Gloria Steinem and her Stalinist cohorts, we are endlessly subjected to the hackneyed scenario of history as a toxic wasteland of vicious male oppression and gruesome female suffering. College campuses are hysterically portrayed as rape extravaganzas where women are helpless fluffs with no control over their own choices and behavior. …



John Fund makes sense of the Net Neutrality/Internet fight.

Today’s vote by a bitterly divided Federal Communications Commission that the Internet should be regulated as a public utility is the culmination of a decade-long battle by the Left. Using money from George Soros and liberal foundations that totaled at least $196 million, radical activists finally succeeded in ramming through “net neutrality,” or the idea that all data should be transmitted equally over the Internet. The final push involved unprecedented political pressure exerted by the Obama White House on FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, head of an ostensibly independent regulatory body.

“Net neutrality’s goal is to empower the federal government to ration and apportion Internet bandwidth as it sees fit, and to thereby control the Internet’s content,” says Phil Kerpen, an anti-net-neutrality activist from the group American Commitment.

The courts have previously ruled the FCC’s efforts to impose “net neutrality” out of bounds, so the battle isn’t over. But for now, the FCC has granted itself enormous power to micromanage the largely unrestrained Internet. …

March 1, 2015

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The China Money Reports on China’s new Silk Road, the overland trade route between China and Western Europe, and other changes in the country.

… Moscow and Beijing are at work planning a new high-speed rail remix of the fabled Trans-Siberian Railroad. And Beijing is committed to translating its growing strategic partnership with Russia into crucial financial and economic help, if a sanctions-besieged Moscow, facing a disastrous oil price war, asks for it.

To China’s south, Afghanistan, despite the 13-year American war still being fought there, is fast moving into its economic orbit, while a planned China-Myanmar oil pipeline is seen as a game-changing reconfiguration of the flow of Eurasian energy across what I’ve long called Pipelineistan.

And this is just part of the frenetic action shaping what the Beijing leadership defines as the New Silk Road Economic Belt and the Maritime Silk Road of the twenty-first century. We’re talking about a vision of creating a potentially mind-boggling infrastructure, much of it from scratch, that will connect China to Central Asia, the Middle East, and Western Europe. Such a development will include projects that range from upgrading the ancient silk road via Central Asia to developing a Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar economic corridor; a China-Pakistan corridor through Kashmir; and a new maritime silk road that will extend from southern China all the way, in reverse Marco Polo fashion, to Venice. …


… If you are following this frenzy of economic planning from Beijing, you end up with a perspective not available in Europe or the U.S. Here, red-and-gold billboards promote President Xi Jinping’s much ballyhooed new tagline for the country and the century, “the Chinese Dream” (which brings to mind “the American Dream” of another era). No subway station is without them. They are a reminder of why 40,000 miles of brand new high-speed rail is considered so essential to the country’s future. After all, no less than 300 million Chinese have, in the last three decades, made a paradigm-breaking migration from the countryside to exploding urban areas in search of that dream.

Another 350 million are expected to be on the way, according to a McKinsey Global Institute study. From 1980 to 2010, China’s urban population grew by 400 million, leaving the country with at least 700 million urban dwellers. This figure is expected to hit one billion by 2030, which means tremendous stress on cities, infrastructure, resources, and the economy as a whole, as well as near-apocalyptic air pollution levels in some major cities.

Already 160 Chinese cities boast populations of more than one million. (Europe has only 35.) No less than 250 Chinese cities have tripled their GDP per capita since 1990, while disposable income per capita is up by 300%.

These days, China should be thought of not in terms of individual cities but urban clusters — groupings of cities with more than 60 million people. The Beijing-Tianjin area, for example, is actually a cluster of 28 cities. Shenzhen, the ultimate migrant megacity in the southern province of Guangdong, is now a key hub in a cluster as well. China, in fact, has more than 20 such clusters, each the size of a European country. Pretty soon, the main clusters will account for 80% of China’s GDP and 60% of its population. So the country’s high-speed rail frenzy and its head-spinning infrastructure projects – part of a $1.1 trillion investment in 300 public works — are all about managing those clusters. …


… In terms of Chinese advantages, keep in mind that the future of the global economy clearly lies in Asia with its record rise in middle-class incomes. In 2009, the Asia-Pacific region had just 18% of the world’s middle class; by 2030, according to the DevelopmentCenter of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, that figure will rise to an astounding 66%. North America and Europe had 54% of the global middle class in 2009; in 2030, it will only be 21%.

Follow the money, and the value you get for that money, too. For instance, no less than 200,000 Chinese workers were involved in the production of the first iPhone, overseen by 8,700 Chinese industrial engineers. They were recruited in only two weeks. In the U.S., that process might have taken more than nine months. The Chinese manufacturing ecosystem is indeed fast, flexible, and smart — and it’s backed by an ever more impressive education system. Since 1998, the percentage of GDP dedicated to education has almost tripled; the number of colleges has doubled; and in only a decade, China has built the largest higher education system in the world. …


… The extent and complexity of China’s myriad transformations barely filter into the American media. Stories in the U.S. tend to emphasize the country’s “shrinking” economy and nervousness about its future global role, the way it has “duped” the U.S. about its designs, and its nature as a military “threat” to Washington and the world.

The U.S. media has a China fever, which results in typically feverish reports that don’t take the pulse of the country or its leader. In the process, so much is missed. One prescription might be for them to read The Governance of China, a compilation of President Xi’s major speeches, talks, interviews, and correspondence. It’s already a three-million-copy bestseller in its Mandarin edition and offers a remarkably digestible vision of what Xi’s highly proclaimed “China Dream” will mean in the new Chinese century.

Xi Dada (“Xi Big Bang” as he’s nicknamed here) is no post-Mao deity. He’s more like a pop phenomenon and that’s hardly surprising. In this “to get rich is glorious” remix, you couldn’t launch the superhuman task of reshaping the Chinese model by being a cold-as-a-cucumber bureaucrat. Xi has instead struck a collective nerve by stressing that the country’s governance must be based on competence, not insider trading and Party corruption, and he’s cleverly packaged the transformation he has in mind as an American-style “dream.”

Behind the pop star clearly lies a man of substance that the Western media should come to grips with. You don’t, after all, manage such an economic success story by accident. It may be particularly important to take his measure since he’s taken the measure of Washington and the West and decided that China’s fate and fortune lie elsewhere. …



From a modern Silk Road to stone age trade. In the Financial Times we learn Britain imported wheat from the Mediterranean 2,000 years before it was cultivated indigenously.

Trade in agricultural commodities has been part of the British economy for at least 8,000 years, archaeologists have discovered.

Investigation of a submerged Stone Age site off Bouldnor Cliff shows that people living there around 6,000BC were consuming a primitive form of wheat.

Yet Britain’s hunter-gatherer population did not grow the crop then. The nearest cultivation was 1,000km (620 miles) away near the Mediterranean — cereal farming is believed to have started in Britain 2,000 years later.

The researchers, working at several UK universities, say the explanation is that “sophisticated social networks” promoted trade between the Mesolithic inhabitants of northern Europe and the more technologically advanced Neolithic peoples farther south, who were already farming. The study appears in the journal Science. …



Scientific American has more.

Early farming began in the Near East about 10,500 years ago. Farming first reached the Balkans in Europe some 8 to 9,000 years ago, and then crept westward. Locals in Britain, separated from the mainland by the relatively newly formed English Channel, did not start farming until about 6,000 years ago.

But an analysis of sediment from a submerged British archaeological site called Bouldner Cliff found something unexpected.

“Amongst our Bouldner Cliff samples we found ancient DNA evidence of wheat at the site, which was not seen in mainland Britain for another 2,000 years.” Robin Allaby of the University of Warwick.

“However, wheat was already being grown in southern Europe. This is incredibly exciting because it means Bouldner’s inhabitants were not as isolated as previously thought. In fact, they were in touch, one way or another, with more advanced Neolithic farming communities in southern Europe.”  …




It wasn’t just wheat that moved through these ancient trade routes. A NY Times article reports on differing theories about the spread of the Proto Indo-European language; from which came all languages from England to India. (One notable exception is Georgian which is totally different. Stalin and Lavrenty Beria, head of the NKVD, both Georgians, used to have sidebar conversations in Georgian during Politburo meetings. Must have terrified the other participants.)

The peoples of India, Iran and Europe speak a Babel of tongues, but most — English included — are descended from an ancient language known as proto-Indo-European. Scholars have argued for two centuries about the identity and homeland of those who spoke this parent language, but a surprisingly sudden resolution of this longstanding issue may be at hand.

Many origins have been proposed for the birthplace of the Indo-European languages, but only two serious candidates are now under discussion, one of which assumes they were spread by the sword, the other by the plow. …

… From the reconstructed vocabulary, the speakers of proto-Indo-European seem to have been pastoralists, familiar with sheep and wheeled vehicles. Archaeologists find that wheeled vehicles emerged around 4000 B.C., suggesting the proto-Indo-European speakers began to flourish some 6,500 years ago on the steppe grasslands above the Black and CaspianSeas. This steppe theory, favored by many linguists, holds that the proto-Indo-European speakers then spread their language to Europe, India and western China, whether by conquest or the appeal of their pastoral economy. …



Using core samples from Cape Cod ponds, researchers have found some periods of mega-storms on the northeast coast of the US. Forgetting the globalony stuff, the cycles are interesting. We get this from

Ancient sediments from a coastal pond in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, show that enormous storms have battered the region for 2,000 years.

The hurricane strikes deposited a distinct layer of sand mobilized from the adjacent beach.

The analysis, published in the journal Earth’s Future, suggests some of the hurricanes would have dwarfed recent storms like Hurricane Sandy in 2012 that caused $65 billion in damages. …