August 13, 2015

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Craig Pirrong with a Hillary update.

A few weeks ago I wrote the first in what I anticipated would be a running series of posts on Hillary Clinton. If the US is still a country of laws, not men (or women, in this instance), or if Hillary Clinton is an honorable individual, this would be a short-lived serial indeed. For today the State Department Inspector General determined that Clinton’s private email server contained a least two emails classified at extremely high levels. This despite her adamant (though utterly risible) denials that she ever discussed classified matters via her personal email. (I say risible because what Secretary of State would never discuss classified information in writing? If you believe she never did, I have a bridge spanning boroughs to sell to you cheap.)

Pair this story with another story that has been in the news and you know how bad it is. Namely, the story that the Chinese have penetrated the private emails of virtually all high ranking national security officials since at least 2010. And you know the Russians have done the same. And the Iranians. And maybe even the Tongans.

This is a felony. It appears to be open and shut. Hillary Clinton has no business holding any office or trust in the United States government, let alone the presidency. If this is a country of laws, she will be prosecuted and convicted, like David Petraeus. If she were a woman of honor, she would terminate her candidacy. But I have serious doubts on both scores-especially the last. Expect a barrage of vicious attacks on her critics (protect the queen! kill the messenger!), combined wit a campaign of obfuscation and denial. It’s the Clinton way. I can hope, but seriously I think this episode will be yet another demonstration of the low state to which this nation has descended.

Pending the outcome of this despicable affair, I will add to the Hillary Chronicles by writing about her New College Compact. I read it, so you don’t have to. Suffice it to say that it proves that Hillary only excels her dishonesty with her economic retardation. This document is triple distilled economic stupidity. 199 Proof. …

 

 

 

Roger Simon says he knows why Hillary is supporting the Iran deal.

… Nevertheless, Hillary has no choice but to support it for two reasons. One: Bernie Sanders is backing it and he is getting all the popular attention on the Democratic side.  But that’s minor and perhaps transitory.  The major reason is clear and deserves a separate paragraph.

Hillary Clinton is in such deep legal trouble over her emails that she needs the backing of Obama to survive.  [itals. mine] He controls the attorney general’s office and therefore he controls Hillary (and her freedom) as long as he is president. Everything she says and does in the presidential campaign must be viewed against this reality.  This is further enhanced by her need to hold together Obama’s electoral coalition.  But that’s the least of it compared to having erased 32,000 emails, most of which were undoubtedly government property, and done who-knows-what to the server, something that not even Nixon would ever have dreamed of.

Meanwhile,  Hillary’s — and other Democrats’ — support for the Iran deal has now basically been reduced to this: It may not be a terrific, but we’re stuck with it and it would be a huge embarrassment to vote it down now.  Moreover, the sanctions could never be reinstated, so what’s the point?  Oh, and by the way, if you don’t agree, you’re a warmonger. …

 

 

Noah Rothman posts on Hillary’s “slow motion implosion.”

“It is very likely,” Secretary of State John Kerry confirmed when asked by a CBS reporter if he believed the Russians and the Chinese were reading his emails. “I certainly write things with that awareness.” The Democratic Party’s elder statesman and former presidential nominee might have known that he was twisting the knife. While it was perhaps unintentional, his comments reflect an accurate assessment bubbling up from the liberal subconscious that Hillary Clinton has been irreparably damaged by the revelations regarding her scandalous conduct as Kerry’s predecessor at Foggy Bottom.

Hillary Clinton could have surrendered her “homebrew” email server, on which she conducted the affairs of state in violation of both State Department and White House guidelines, to a third party at any time. Indeed, that was the request of the Republican members of the House Select Committee on Benghazi. If she were so inclined, she could have rid herself of the suspicion that she had something to hide. Clinton might not have found exculpation in a third party investigation of the system that once held over 30,000 deleted emails that Clinton assured Americans were of no interest to them, she would have at least created the impression that she had belatedly embraced transparency. Instead, she dug in, closed ranks, and bristled with indignation at anyone who dared question her integrity. In the process, Clinton repeatedly misled the public and the press on matters both substantial and paltry.

Hillary Clinton could have done many things to mitigate the damage wrought to her political image by the steady stream of information about her behavior at State. Instead, in deference to the sense of entitlement her enablers have cultivated over a quarter-century, she did nothing. …

 

 

 

Jennifer Rubin calls it Hillary Clinton’s Al Capone moment. 

Al Capone famously never got put away for murder or mob activity. It was tax evasion that snared the iconic mobster. Hillary Clinton has yet to be charged with anything but the irony that she may have stumbled over a “technical” security rule is palpable.

The Post reports, “Hillary Rodham Clinton’s attorney has agreed to provide the FBI with the private server that housed her e-mail during her four years as secretary of state, Clinton’s presidential campaign said Tuesday. Her attorney also has agreed to give agents a thumb drive containing copies of thousands of e-mails that Clinton had previously turned over to the State Department.” According to ex-law enforcement officials and criminal law attorneys experienced with investigations of high-profile individuals with whom we have spoken, this is a nice way of saying: The FBI allowed her to hand over the material instead of suffering the embarrassment of a subpoena. …

 

 

We’ll let the liberal Ron Fournier finish off Hillary.

For once, Hillary Rodham Clinton seemed to be a decent candidate. Taking aim at weak spots in the GOP lines, she attacked Jeb Bush on women’s health, Marco Rubio on abortion, Scott Walker on college costs, and Donald Trump on sexism.

Then the stone wall crumbled around the Queen of Paradox: Hillary Clinton, both a political colossus and a catastrophe. We learned Tuesday night: 

—She will give the FBI a private, illicit server that housed her official email during her four years as secretary of State, including thousands that she covertly deleted. 

—Her attorney will give agents a thumb drive containing copies of the self-selected emails she returned to the State Department after discovery of the rogue server. 

—A top intelligence official reviewing just a handful of those emails told Congress that top-secret information had been contained in two emails that passed across the server.

Where do I start? How about with the Clinton campaign’s ridiculous suggestion that coughing up the server and email were voluntary acts. We know that’s bunk—because Clinton herself said she wouldn’t surrender the people’s records without a fight.

 

 

Andy Malcolm has late night humor.  

Conan: Donald Trump says he wanted to be “very civil” in Thursday’s debate. Instead of referring to all Hispanics as “criminals,” he called them “Criminal-Americans.”

Meyers: Donald Trump is still leading the Republican polls. Of course, it’s only a matter of time before Trump slips up and says something completely sane.

Conan: There is a rumor that the CEO of Starbucks might run for president. In fact, he opened up his first campaign headquarters and another one right across the street.

 

 

 

There was an unprecedented event in Major League Baseball last night – all 15 home teams won. Daily News has the story. 

Home sweep home.

When the Seattle Mariners beat Baltimore 6-5 in 10 innings Tuesday night, it marked the first time in baseball history all 15 home teams won on the same day.

Viewing every game as a 50-50 proposition independent of all others, STATS figured the odds of a home sweep on a night with a full major league schedule at 1 in 32,768.

Now that’s home cookin’!

STATS said previously the best performance by hosts had been 11-0, accomplished six times — three in the 1800s. The most recent occasion was Sept. 16, 1989. …

 

Lots of good Hillary cartoons today.

 

 

 

 

August 12, 2015

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Peter Whoriskey of WaPo who was last in Pickings June 1st when he reported on new research on salt, is back again popping bubbles. Turns out what the government nutritionists were telling us about the critical importance of breakfast is bogus. Fancy that, the government got something wrong! 

Researchers at a New York City hospital several years ago conducted a test of the widely accepted notion that skipping breakfast can make you fat.

For some nutritionists, this idea is an article of faith. Indeed, it is enshrined in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the federal government’s advice book, which recommends having breakfast every day because “not eating breakfast has been associated with excess body weight.”

As with many nutrition tips, though, including some offered by the Dietary Guidelines, the tidbit about skipping breakfast is based on scientific speculation, not certainty, and indeed, it may be completely unfounded, as the experiment in New York indicated.

At 8:30 in the morning for four weeks, one group of subjects got oatmeal, another got frosted corn flakes and a third got nothing. And the only group to lose weight was … the group that skipped breakfast. Other trials, too, have similarly contradicted the federal advice, showing that skipping breakfast led to lower weight or no change at all.

“In overweight individuals, skipping breakfast daily for 4 weeks leads to a reduction in body weight,” the researchers from ColumbiaUniversity concluded in a paper published last year.

A closer look at the way that government nutritionists adopted the breakfast warning for the Dietary Guidelines shows how loose scientific guesses — possibly right, possibly wrong — can be elevated into hard-and-fast federal nutrition rules that are broadcast throughout the United States. …

 

 

 

WSJ Editors write on more government incompetence; this time the EPA.

‘Ghostbusters” has been playing again on cable, so we are reminded that the villain of that movie classic was a bully from the Environmental Protection Agency. He broke the ghost-containment grid and all hell broke loose. So who you gonna call today when the E-men dump three million gallons of toxic slurry down the rivers of the West?

Last week an EPA hazmat team hoped to inspect an abandoned Gold Rush-era mine near Durango, Colorado, and the backhoe digging out the collapsed cave entrance breached a retaining wall. The blowout spilled the contaminated sludge that had accumulated for nearly a century in the mine’s tunnels into a creek that is a tributary of the AnimasRiver, flowing at a rate of 740 gallons a minute.

The plume of lead, arsenic, mercury, copper, cadmium and other heavy metals turned the water a memorable shade of yellow-orange chrome. …

… Naturally, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980, known as the Superfund law, gives EPA clean-up crews immunity from the trial bar when they are negligent. Yet the Durango blowout was entirely avoidable.

In an Aug. 8 “incident report,” the EPA notes that “the intent of the investigation was to create access to the mine, assess on-going water releases from the mine to treat mine water, and assess the feasibility of further mine remediation.” In other words, the mine was plugged, and the EPA was excavating in search of some notional make-work problem to solve. …

 

 

 

 

Jon Gabriel writes one for the “normal” guy. That would be our fav – Scott Walker.

Despite what The Donald and Jeb! and Carly said in last week’s debate, Scott Walker’s closing statement tackled an even larger elephant in the room: “I’m a guy with a wife, two kids, and a Harley. One article called me ‘aggressively normal.’” The Wisconsin Governor’s detractors aren’t as euphemistic. Let’s face it: Scott Walker is B-O-R-I-N-G.

He brags about the bargain rack at Kohl’s. He spends his Sunday mornings at church and his Sunday afternoons watching the Packers. He live-tweets his haircuts and getting the oil changed in his Saturn. His only unhealthy obsession seems to be an addiction to hot ham and rolls after church. (He really loves hot ham.)

In a news cycle filled with burning cities, beheaded Christians, and transgendered Kardashians, how does a dull Midwesterner stand out? He showed how Thursday night. To paraphrase a reporter talking about Barry Goldwater’s presidential strategy, “my God, Walker is running as Walker!”

This isn’t the first time a politician listed “aggressively normal” as a selling point. In 1920, America’s political climate was in even greater tumult than today’s. President Wilson had fundamentally transformed the federal government into an oppressive entity that regularly jailed detractors, instituted a then-unimaginable level of regulation, and created the first income tax. Our battered soldiers returned from the charnel houses of Europe to find an executive branch pushing for an even more robust internationalism. By the time the president was incapacitated by stroke (a fact hidden for months), most Americans had had enough. …

 

 

 

Walter Russell Mead writes on Trump. He closes with a few ‘graphs on the farce we endure during the election season.

… Trump is a sham, of course, but for many Americans in 2015 the whole political process is a sham. Trump, however, is an entertaining sham, and some voters think that if the establishment is going to screw you no matter what you do, you might as well vote for the funny one.

So it doesn’t matter that Trump’s positions (insofar as he has taken any) are unpopular, or that he is so obviously and outrageously a member of the economic elite that has so many Americans riled up this year—indeed, it may help him. Donald Trump is living large, which is how many Americans wish they could live.

In part, also, Trump’s popularity is the result of harmless good fun; our two-year presidential electoral cycle is a ridiculous spectacle and the reporters and pundits who discuss the horse race in such diligent detail are chasing will o’ the wisps and wasting time. Many of the people who answer the polls that get analyzed to death in long, thumb sucker pieces aren’t thinking seriously about how they will vote more than a year from now. You can also tell a pollster that you plan to vote for Trump simply, as George Wallace used to put it back in 1968, to “send them a message.” Trump offers average Americans the chance to pull the Establishment’s chain, and then watch the wonks and the pundits jerk and squeal. This is a lot of fun for the tens of millions of people out there who think the whole political class consists of high-minded incompetents and unprincipled parasites.

Nihilistic populism, that is, can also be a powerful phenomenon.

August 11, 2015

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Physics Central-Buzz Blog runs a Fermi Problem answer to the question of whether going inside in a thunderstorm is necessary.

It’s easy enough to find the statistics for lightning strike injuries and deaths in the U.S., but since this is Fermi Problem Friday, I’d like to do it as I imagine Enrico Fermi would.

You have to start somewhere, of course, so I’ll begin with the stat from Wikipedia that for most of the U.S. there are an average of about twenty lightning strikes that make it to the ground in every square kilometer of area each year. (There are many more between clouds, of course, and the number varies dramatically from place to place in the country, but hey – Fermi problem.)

The country has a population of 350 million people or so, last I heard, and a total area of 10 million square kilometers, so there are 35 people per square kilometer on average.

It seems reasonable to assume that being within ten meters of a lightning strike is seriously dangerous, so lets imagine that every square kilometer is broken up into ten-by-ten meter sections (100 square meter areas).  If you happen to be in one of those sections when lightning hits it’s likely you will be injured or killed.

So what are the odds of someone being struck by lightning in any random square kilometer in the U.S.? Well, there are 100 x 100 = 10,000 sections that are ten meters on a side in each square kilometer. If there are 35 people per square kilometer and 20 strikes per year then the chances are

(20/10,000) x(35/10,000) = 700/100,000,000 or roughly one in 150,000 that someone will be hit in any given square kilometer in one year.

If you multiply that by the number of square kilometers in the U.S. (10 million), you end up with an estimate of about 66 deaths from lightning strikes per year in the entire country.

In fact, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration reports 40 to 50 deaths due to lightning each year, so Fermi is spot on in this case. …

 

 

 

Time for a look at Jon Stewart. In a NY Times OpEd, a poly sci prof at UVA calls him the patron saint of liberal smugness.

It shows how gifted Jon Stewart is that his best moment happened on someone else’s show. He appeared in 2004 on “Crossfire,” a CNN yelling program, and asked the hosts to take seriously their responsibility to public understanding by having useful conversations instead of shouting matches.

It was Mr. Stewart’s finest hour. He made an earnest pitch for civility in a place where there really was none. Which makes it too bad that in his 16 years of hosting “The Daily Show,” he never lived up to his own responsibility. His prodigious talents — he was smart and funny, and even more of both when he was mad — perfectly positioned him to purge a particular smugness from our discourse. Instead, he embodied it. I loved watching him, and hated it too.

Many liberals, but not conservatives, believe there is an important asymmetry in American politics. These liberals believe that people on opposite sides of the ideological spectrum are fundamentally different. Specifically, they believe that liberals are much more open to change than conservatives, more tolerant of differences, more motivated by the public good and, maybe most of all, smarter and better informed.

The evidence for these beliefs is not good. Liberals turn out to be just as prone to their own forms of intolerance, ignorance and bias. But the beliefs are comforting to many. They give their bearers a sense of intellectual and even moral superiority. And they affect behavior. They inform the condescension and self-righteousness with which liberals often treat conservatives. …

 

 

 

Jonathan Tobin posts on Jon Stewart and the politics of contempt.

… Obama has been transformed from the post-partisan visionary that enraptured a nation with promises of hope and change into something very different. He is now a man who was unashamed to conduct a serious foreign policy debate employing bitter hyper-partisan rhetoric that seemed straight of Richard Nixon’s playbook. But unlike Nixon, Obama didn’t merely make an enemies list. He demonized his enemies employing humor. The fact that his nasty lines about Republican critics of the Iran nuclear deal being the equivalent of Iranians chanting “Death to America” got laughs from his campus audience at the AmericanUniversity was no accident.

There is a long and honorable tradition of political humor and satire in the Western canon dating back to Jonathan Swift. But though Stewart’s routines were often undeniably funny, his show deserved to be remembered more for deceptive editing of interviews of those whose views he sought to skewer and the softballs he tossed at liberals and Democrats. Though he pretended at times to be above mere partisanship and took shots at easy though non-controversial Democratic targets, he was in a real sense the poet laureate of the Democratic Party in the last decade. The cheap shots in Obama’s speech the day before Stewart exited stage left is a symbol but a telling one since it illustrates the way the comedian’s style has infected mainstream politics. Whereas in an earlier era it would have been unthinkable for a commander-in-chief to stoop to speak of mainstream political opponents as the moral equivalent of an Iranian mob, this kind of incendiary reference is stereotypical Stewart.

The point about his style is not that it was both funny and unfair, but the way it conveys a sort of not-so-secret handshake among the young and the fashionably liberal. In this world, differing views don’t have to be engaged with, let alone disputed. They can, instead, be dismissed with a vicious swipe aimed at conveying the message that anyone who dissents from liberal orthodoxy is beyond contempt. …

 

 

 

And The Federalist thinks he became the left’s Donald Trump.

… “The Daily Show” did not become a staple of the zeitgeist’s diet until election day 2004, when Stewart bawled at his desk because voters re-elected George W. Bush. It soon became apparent that Stewart regretted running the video of John Kerry zig-zagging downhill with a voiceover noting the Democratic nominee’s flip-flops: “I was for the Iraq War, now I’m against the Iraq War,” Stewart said. Yes, it was funny, just as funny as his diatribes against Donald Rumsfeld and Bush, but it was too effective. By 2005, Stewart seemed to be pulling his punches, although he still criticized Democrats for their foolishness. Dick Durbin’s comparison of Bush and Hitler inspired a masterful takedown of Godwin’s Law.

“Please stop calling people Hitler when you disagree with them. It demeans you. It demeans your opponent. And, to be honest, it demeans Hitler. He worked too many years, too hard to be that evil to have every Tom, Dick, and Harry come along and say ‘Yeah, you’re being Hitler.’ No. You know who was Hitler—Hitler,” he said.

Election day 2006 marked the turning point. Upon seeing his effectiveness at swinging voters and driving youth turnout, he made a conscious decision to adopt the inverse of Ronald Reagan’s Eleventh Commandment: Thou shalt not criticize a Democrat. Never again did he speak truth to power. He catered to it, slamming the powerful for not exercising more power. The withering monologues were replaced with mere sighs at the stupidity of those who didn’t agree with Barack Obama.

Jon Stewart’s Dishonest Editing

If this was commentary, it was WWE commentary complete with fabricated storylines and DEVASTATING PULVERIZATION of straw men. The mask came off when guests began publicizing Stewart’s tactics for tickling the liberal ego. First came Jonah Goldberg’s infamous segment, in which the heroic “Daily Show” editing crew condensed 20 minutes of Stewart getting embarrassed for not bothering to read the book that left him reflexively offended into six minutes of Goldberg shouting. …

August 10, 2015

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We have had a nice few days without contemplating the detritus of the current occupant. Events intrude though, and we need to pay attention to his calumnies that those who oppose his agreement with Iran are those who want war, and they are allied with hard-liners in Iran who shout, “death to America.” John Hinderaker of Power Line posts on the president’s “lowest moment yet.”

Today President Obama gave a speech at AmericanUniversity, urging acceptance of his nuclear deal with Iran. It was the usual exercise in deception and demagoguery, and he skated up to the edge of accusing opponents of the deal–a majority of Americans, apparently–of treason.

After some initial reminiscence about the Cold War, Obama leaped right into misrepresenting the agreement’s terms:

“After two years of negotiations, we have achieved a detailed arrangement that permanently prohibits Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”

The “prohibition” consists of a pious declaration by Iran which it can repudiate at any time. The agreement contains no provisions that will permanently impede Iran’s ability to acquire nuclear weapons. The provisions that (if adhered to) would materially impede Iran’s nuclear weapons program expire in no more than 15 years.

Next, the president offered up a revisionist history of the war in Iraq–a topic of dubious relevance at best:

[M]any of the same people who argued for the war in Iraq are now making the case against the Iran nuclear deal.

Whereas others who argued for the war in Iraq are now making the case in favor of the Iran deal–Joe Biden, John Kerry and Hillary Clinton, for example. So what? Next comes a breathtaking series of lies:

“I said that America didn’t just have to end that war — we had to end the mindset that got us there in the first place. It was a mindset characterized by a preference for military action over diplomacy; a mindset that put a premium on unilateral U.S. action over the painstaking work of building international consensus; a mindset that exaggerated threats beyond what the intelligence supported.”

No American administration has ever preferred war to diplomacy. The war in Iraq was anything but unilateral, as more than 20 countries participated in the U.S.-led coalition. And the intelligence on Iraq’s WMDs was not exaggerated, as we know from the now-public October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate. (Nor, as we now know, was that intelligence entirely wrong.) …

… If Obama had said that the Republican caucus is making common cause with Iran’s hardliners, it would have been an unambiguous accusation of treason. By phrasing it the other way around–the hardliners are making common cause with Republicans–Obama gives himself a slight margin of deniability. But either way, it is a disgusting slander.

It is also delusional. Iran’s hardliners are the regime in power. The mullahs are not aligning themselves with Republicans; on the contrary, they are trumpeting the fact that they got everything they wanted in their negotiations with John Kerry and Barack Obama. But Obama can’t, and won’t, confront that reality. He will just go on slandering his political opponents and lying to the American people.

Barack Obama is a terrible president, but he is a worse man.

 

 

 

Charles Krauthammer devoted his weekly column to the controversy.

… It is only because so many Democrats are defecting that Obama gave the AU speech in the first place. And why he tried so mightily to turn the argument into a partisan issue — those warmongering Republicans attacking a president offering peace in our time. Obama stooped low, accusing the Republican caucus of making “common cause” with the Iranian “hard-liners” who shout “Death to America.”

Forget the gutter ad hominem. This is delusional. Does Obama really believe the Death-to-America hard-liners are some kind of KKK fringe? They are the government, for God’s sake — the entire state apparatus of the Islamic Republic from the Revolutionary Guards to the supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei who for decades have propagated, encouraged and applauded those very same “Death to America” chants.

Common cause with the Iranian hard-liners? Who more than Obama? For years, they conduct a rogue nuclear weapons program in defiance of multiple Security Council declarations of its illegality backed by sanctions and embargoes. Obama rewards them with a treaty that legitimates their entire nuclear program, lifts the embargo on conventional weapons and ballistic missiles and revives an economy — described by Iran’s president as headed back to “the Stone Age” under sanctions — with an injection of up to $150 billion in unfrozen assets, permission for the unlimited selling of oil and full access to the international financial system.

With this agreement, this repressive, intolerant, aggressive, supremely anti-American regime — the chief exporter of terror in the world — is stronger and more entrenched than it has ever been.

Common cause, indeed.

 

 

 

Even David Brooks sees the agreement’s problems.

… Many members of Congress will be tempted to accept the terms of our partial surrender as the least bad option in the wake of our defeat. I get that. But in voting for this deal they may be affixing their names to an arrangement that will increase the chance of more comprehensive war further down the road.

Iran is a fanatical, hegemonic, hate-filled regime. If you think its radicalism is going to be softened by a few global trade opportunities, you really haven’t been paying attention to the Middle East over the past four decades.

Iran will use its $150 billion windfall to spread terror around the region and exert its power. It will incrementally but dangerously cheat on the accord. Armed with money, ballistic weapons and an eventual nuclear breakout, it will become more aggressive. As the end of the nuclear delay comes into view, the 45th or 46th president will decide that action must be taken.

Economic and political defeats can be as bad as military ones. Sometimes when you surrender to a tyranny you lay the groundwork for a more cataclysmic conflict to come.

 

 

 

Andrew Malcolm calls him the very good talker. Paul Greenberg wonders why this great glib talker has nothing to say about the videos of Planned Parenthood selling parts. All we hear is crickets.  

Silence comes in many varieties. It can be golden. Or just silence. Like the white space between the words on this page.

There is the silence that sounds like a confession, even if it isn’t. (“On counsel’s advice, I invoke my right under the Fifth Amendment not to answer, on the grounds I may incriminate myself.”)

There is the silence of the perjurer as he weighs every word in an attempt to devise an escape clause. “To the best of my recollection…” as Alger Hiss used to say before trying to refute Whittaker Chambers’ irrefutable testimony about Soviet espionage in the State Department.

There is the silence of prudence personified by Silent Cal (Coolidge), who never uttered an unnecessary word. As opposed to the witness who chooses to brazen it out (“I did not have sexual relations with that woman”) but only digs himself into a deeper hole. And then has to take refuge in semantic games. (“It depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.”)

Then there is the silence of an ordinarily glib politician who suddenly has nothing to say about an event in the news. As when the Hon. Barack Obama has no comment about those revealing videos featuring doctors with Planned Parenthood, who are caught talking about the fetal parts they’re selling. The rest of the country may be repelled by those tapes, but our president remains … silent. …

 

 

 

Jason Riley writes on how the president has created racial discord. 

One great irony of the current presidency is that Barack Obama won the support of so many seasoned political journalists—not to mention otherwise-skeptical voters—who thought that a black president would improve racial unity. David Remnick of the New Yorker called him “the bridge.” Time magazine’s Joe Klein assured readers that Mr. Obama, who “transcends the racial divide so effortlessly,” would help America turn the page on race. But six years in, that hasn’t happened.

According to a CBS News/New York Times poll in July, nearly 60% of Americans, including large majorities of both blacks and whites, say race relations “are generally bad.” Almost 40% say they are getting worse. Other surveys back those findings. CNN pollsters reported in March that the share of people who think race relations have improved on Mr. Obama’s watch had fallen to 15% this year from 32% in 2009, while the share who think relations have worsened grew to 39% from 6%. A Gallup survey in January reported that 62% of respondents are “somewhat dissatisfied” or “very dissatisfied” with the state of race relations in the country, versus 40% in 2008.

The press has dutifully reported this racial retrogression but is reluctant to lay any blame on Mr. Obama. The president obviously isn’t responsible for the racially charged incidents that have occurred on his watch, from Ferguson, Mo., to Baltimore, to Charleston, S.C. Still, he ought to be held accountable for the racial impact of his reactions, his polices and his political bedfellows.

Mr. Obama campaigned as a racial conciliator, someone who believed, as he said in a speech to the Democratic National Convention in 2004, that “there is not a black America and a white America and Latino America and Asian America. There’s the United States of America.”

But that is not how he has governed. As president, he has repeatedly—and often prematurely—taken sides in local police matters involving black suspects. …

 

 

 

Victor Davis Hanson asks if Israel will “do the unthinkable to prevent the unimaginable.”

The Obama administration seems peeved that almost everyone in Israel, left and right, has no use for the present Iranian–American deal to thwart Iran’s efforts to get the bomb.

Indeed, at times John Kerry has hinted darkly that Israel’s opposition to the pact might incur American wrath should the deal be tabled — even though Kerry knows that the polls show a clear majority of Americans being against the proposed agreement while remaining quite supportive of the Jewish state. President Obama, from time to time, suggests that his agreement is being sabotaged by nefarious lobbying groups, big-time check writers, and neoconservative supporters of the Iraq war — all shorthand, apparently, for pushy Jewish groups.

Obama and his negotiators seem surprised that Israelis take quite seriously Iranian leaders’ taunts over the past 35 years that they would like to liquidate the Jewish state and everyone in it. The Israelis, for some reason, remember that well before Hitler came to power, he had bragged about the idea of killing Jews en masse in his sloppily composed autobiographical Mein Kampf. Few in Germany or abroad had taken the raving young Hitler too seriously. Even in the late 1930s, when German Jews were being rounded up and haphazardly killed on German streets by state-sanctioned thugs, most observers considered such activities merely periodic excesses or outbursts from non-governmental Black- and Brownshirts. …

… The Israelis have taken to heart lots of lessons over the last 70 years. They have concluded that often the world quietly wants Israel to deal with existential threats emanating from the Middle East while loudly damning it when it does. They have learned from the experience of the Holocaust that, for good or evil, Jews are on their own and can never again trust in the world’s professed humanity to prevent another Holocaust. And they are convinced that they can also never again err on the side of the probability that national leaders, with deadly weapons in their grasp, do not really mean all the unhinged things they shout and scream about killing Jews.

Given all that, we should conclude that any deal that leads, now or in the near future, to an Iranian bomb is unacceptable to Israel — a nation that will likely soon have no choice but to consider the unthinkable in order to prevent the unimaginable.

 

Good selection of cartoons today.

August 9, 2015

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If you travel to remote places, the services of Global Rescue or a similar firm, may have critical value. Wired Magazine profiles the firm as it reacts to the earthquake in Nepal last April.

… Global Rescue, which positions itself as a nimble eject button for those who frequently find themselves in tough spots, has in the past decade established a lucrative client base of large corporations, government organizations, hunters, and adventure travelers. The company has offices in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Pakistan, and Thailand and a staff that might make some countries’ armies blush. Its roster of 200-odd employees includes wilderness paramedics and former military personnel, some of them ex-Special Forces and Navy SEALs. The company’s Nepal posting is a busy one. Every spring, climbers and trekkers, many of them Global Rescue clients, come to test their mettle in the Himalayas. In 2013 and 2014, the company evacuated 28 clients and repatriated the remains of three more who perished in the mountains. …

… And then news of the disaster broke on television in Bang­kok. Then Kathmandu’s cellular network went down, over­loaded by the volume of calls, and Line stopped working. On cue, Global Rescue’s phones lit up. Uber, a corporate client, had three employees in Kathmandu. Another corporate client, Condé Nast, WIRED’s parent company, called: A climber was on assignment for Glamour. Another call came from VirginiaCommonwealthUniversity in Qatar, which had staff in Nepal. Two Global Rescue analysts began sifting through Twitter feeds from Everest climbers they’d been following. But there was precious little to report. Wi-Fi was down in Kathmandu, cell phone service was sporadic, and satellite phones went in and out. …

… The company’s founder and CEO, a former Wall Street executive named Dan Richards, awoke on Saturday morning to many voicemails. He was on vacation in Los Angeles; back in Boston and New Hampshire, his team was awake and scrambling. Analysts eventually determined that at least 100 clients were in Nepal. Their specific locations, though, were less clear. Climbers on Everest were moving slowly up the mountain, spread between Base Camp, at 17,600 feet; Camp 1, at 19,800 feet; and Camp 2, some 2,000 feet higher. Early Saturday morning in the US, the first reports had emerged of a massive and deadly avalanche of rock and ice at Base Camp. Richards had no idea if his clients were among the deceased. He contacted his associate director for security operations, Scott Hume, who then instructed Drew Pache, a security operations manager for Global Rescue and former US Army Special Forces operative, to leave the New Hamp­shire office and get on a plane for Kathmandu. …

… In an age when travelers can land in Paris or Jakarta and book a ride with Uber before the plane reaches the gate, Global Rescue’s existence hardly seems remarkable. Why shouldn’t we be able to hire private armies to ensure our safe return home from vacation? Fast convenience has never been so valued, and Global Rescue represents a logical extension in the app era: security guaranteed with the click of a sat phone. That’s what the company sells, anyway—absolute control in situations that are by definition uncon­trollable. The truth is slightly more complicated. “It’s a bit like a swan in the water,” Fraser told me. “It looks graceful on the surface, but underneath, the legs are going crazy.”

The fact that well-heeled travelers can summon Green Berets and wilderness paramedics almost instantaneously can present an ethical conundrum. The places where Global Rescue operates are often poor and short on resources; the company’s business model is predicated on delivering goods and services to its clients first. It makes an effort to help locals when possible, but as Richards puts it, “We are not the Red Cross. We don’t have the ability to just deploy our services to people who haven’t paid a member­ship fee.”

A graduate of Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, Rich­ards founded Global Rescue in 2004 following a successful career as a private equity adviser at Thomas Weisel Capital Partners. He saw a niche that needed filling. …

 

 

 

Speaking of high altitudes, National Geographic reports on studies to determine how snow leopards get enough oxygen.

Despite living at elevations of more than 16,400 feet (5,000 meters), these spotted big cats breathe in the same way as other feline species that live at sea level—notably your pet kitty.

Anyone who has ever tried to run even a short distance on a mountain has felt the effects of high elevation. The difficulties people and other animals have breathing isn’t due to lower oxygen, but rather low air pressure at high altitudes. Each breath takes in less oxygen and fewer air molecules overall.

Without adequate oxygen, mammals can’t stay warm, run to chase prey, or escape predators. To get around this, other high-dwelling animals have evolved coping strategies—in particular, many of them have more efficient hemoglobin, an oxygen-carrying protein in the blood.

Scientists wondered if snow leopards had the same adaptation. But the new research, published August 5 in the Journal of Experimental Biology, reveals they don’t. …

 

 

 

Speaking of big cats, (Notice our series of deft segues?), a Zimbabwean, studying in the US, tries to point out the foolishness of Cecilmania.

Winston-Salem, N.C. — MY mind was absorbed by the biochemistry of gene editing when the text messages and Facebook posts distracted me.

So sorry about Cecil.

Did Cecil live near your place in Zimbabwe?

Cecil who? I wondered. When I turned on the news and discovered that the messages were about a lion killed by an American dentist, the village boy inside me instinctively cheered: One lion fewer to menace families like mine.

My excitement was doused when I realized that the lion killer was being painted as the villain. I faced the starkest cultural contradiction I’d experienced during my five years studying in the United States.

Did all those Americans signing petitions understand that lions actually kill people? That all the talk about Cecil being “beloved” or a “local favorite” was media hype? Did Jimmy Kimmel choke up because Cecil was murdered or because he confused him with Simba from “The Lion King”?

In my village in Zimbabwe, surrounded by wildlife conservation areas, no lion has ever been beloved, or granted an affectionate nickname. They are objects of terror. …

 

 

Normally Craig Pirrong doesn’t show up on science days, but he has pointed thoughts about nuclear fission.

Today is the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. In commemoration, we are being bombarded with moralizing criticisms of the US’s actions. Japan is playing the victim card for all it is worth, and it is getting considerable support in the predictable quarters of the US and Europe.

These criticisms only survive in a vacuum in which history begins on 6 August, 1945.  Put into proper historical context, Truman’s decision to drop the bomb is readily understood and easily defended.  Real decisions require an understanding of the choices at hand, and Truman’s choices were grim.

The alternative to the bomb was a continued relentless air assault on Japan with conventional weapons, likely culminating with a series of invasions of the home islands, combined with a Soviet assault in Manchuria and then into China. The human toll of this alternative would have far exceeded that of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, especially in Japanese lives.  Curtis LeMay’s firebombing campaign inflicted horrific casualties: the firebombing of Tokyo on 8/9 March, 1945 alone killed over 100,000 Japanese civilians. The collective toll of the conventional bombing campaign was over 300,000 from November 1944-August 1945, and its continuation would have killed more Japanese than the atomic bombs did. …

… Some weeks ago, Obama said “ideologies are not defeated with guns but better ideas.” There is at least one instance where that is true. In August, 1945, the violent ideology of Bushido was defeated by an idea. The better idea was nuclear fission.

August 6, 2015

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John Hawkins at Townhall celebrates the 103rd birthday of Milton Friedman.

Yesterday would have been the 103rd birthday of Milton Friedman, who was one of the most brilliant economists of the last century. In honor of Friedman, here are his 20 best quotes.

20) “A society that puts equality before freedom will get neither. A society that puts freedom before equality will get a high degree of both.”

19) “Because we live in a largely free society, we tend to forget how limited is the span of time and the part of the globe for which there has ever been anything like political freedom: the typical state of mankind is tyranny, servitude, and misery. The nineteenth century and early twentieth century in the Western world stand out as striking exceptions to the general trend of historical development. Political freedom in this instance clearly came along with the free market and the development of capitalist institutions. So also did political freedom in the golden age of Greece and in the early days of the Roman era.”

18) “It is one thing to have free immigration to jobs. It is another thing to have free immigration to welfare. And you cannot have both. If you have a welfare state, if you have a state in which every resident is promised a certain minimal level of income, or a minimum level of subsistence, regardless of whether he works or not, produces it or not. Then it really is an impossible thing.”  …

 

 

Another great man died a few days ago – Robert Conquest. Here’s the Wall Street Journal.

Robert Conquest, an Anglo-American historian whose works on the terror and privation under Joseph Stalin made him the pre-eminent Western chronicler of the horrors of Soviet rule, died Monday in Palo Alto, Calif. He was 98 years old.

Mr. Conquest’s master work, “The Great Terror,” was the first detailed account of the Stalinist purges from 1937 to 1939. He estimated that under Stalin, 20 million people perished from famines, Soviet labor camps and executions—a toll that eclipsed that of the Holocaust. Writing at the height of the Cold War in 1968, when sources about the Soviet Union were scarce, Mr. Conquest was vilified by leftists who said he exaggerated the number of victims. When the Cold War ended and archives in Moscow were thrown open, his estimates proved high but more accurate than those of his critics.

Mr. Conquest also was a much-decorated writer of light verse and a figure in the “Movement” poetry of 1950s England. He continued to publish into his 90s, applying an unyielding zest to poetry and prose alike. …

… The 1937-1939 Stalinist show trials, in which Stalin’s political rivals all admitted to serious crimes and were shot, shocked many left-leaning intellectuals in the West. The lurid trials set off mass defections from Communist parties in Europe and the U.S. and helped inspire anti-Communist tracts such as George Orwell’s “1984” and Arthur Koestler’s “Darkness at Noon.”

But the wider slaughter of Soviet citizens had largely gone undocumented until Mr. Conquest’s narrative. Citing sources made public during the thaw under Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev as well as émigré accounts, the Soviet census and snippets of information in the Soviet press, Mr. Conquest portrayed the trials as a mere sideshow to the systematic murder carried out by the Kremlin, which routinely ordered regional quotas for thousands of arbitrary arrests and shootings at burial pits and execution cellars. The latest data show that during a 16-month stretch in 1937 and 1938, more than 800,000 people were shot by the Soviet secret police.

These executions came on top of millions of earlier deaths amid the forced famines and collectivization of Soviet agriculture, which Mr. Conquest detailed in a later book, “The Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror-Famine.” Mr. Conquest wrote that Stalin summarily executed millions of people by cutting off food to entire regions, particularly Ukraine. …

… “Penultimata,” a critically acclaimed collection of Mr. Conquest’s poetry, was published in mid-2009 by the Waywiser Press. He was also an enthusiastic crafter of limericks, a form in which his irreverence and flair for language flourished. One version of an often-quoted one reads:

“There was a great Marxist named Lenin

Who did two or three million men in.

—That’s a lot to have done in,

But where he did one in

That grand Marxist Stalin did ten in.”

 

 

 

 

A good example of Conquest’s humor was a letter to the editor of New York Review of Books.

To the Editors:

In a footnote to John Banville’s review of Martin Amis’s House of Meetings [“Executioner Songs,” NYR, March 1] I am quoted as having suggested, for a title for a new edition of The Great Terror, “How About I Told You So, You Fucking Fools?” A few weeks earlier, in a TLS review of Zachary Leader’s The Life of Kingsley Amis (February 2), Clive James called me “unfailingly polite in controversy.”

Hard to reconcile the two views—except that the “I told you so, etc.” comment was actually made, and attributed to me, by the ever-inventive Kingsley.

This also gives me an excuse to join in the welcome to Martin Amis’s moving new book. I am particularly glad to read in his acknowledgments the tribute to Tibor Szamuely, who understood Stalinism better than I did. I remember saying to him that I could see why Stalin had Marshal Tukhachevski shot, but why did he do the same to his old friend Marshal Yegorev? Tibor’s answer was “Why not?”

Robert Conquest

Stanford, California

 

 

 

Here’s the obit from UK’s Telegraph

Robert Conquest, the writer on Soviet Russia who has died aged 98, was a polemicist and a serious, published poet; but above all he was an historian, one of the outstanding scholars of his time, whose books did as much as any other man’s to alter our view of the communist experience.

Conquest personified the truth that there was no anti-communist so dedicated as an ex-communist. His career illustrated also what the Italian writer Ignazio Silone, another former communist, meant when he said to the communist leader Palmiro Togliatti that “the final battle” of the 20th century would have to be fought between the two sides they represented.

An ardent Bolshevik as a young man, Conquest became a bitter foe of Soviet “Socialism”. He had first visited Russia in 1937 as a youthful devotee of the great experiment. It was a half century before he returned in 1989, having spent his life between chronicling the horrors the country had endured, and emerging, in the view of the Oxford historian Mark Almond, as “one of the few Western heroes of the collapse of Soviet Communism”. “He was Solzhenitsyn before Solzhenitsyn,” said Timothy Garton Ash.

Of his many works on the subject, perhaps the most important was The Great Terror, published in 1968 and detailing the full enormity of what Stalin had done to the Russian people in the 1930s and 1940s. The Mexican writer Octavio Paz paid the most succinct tribute to this book when he said in 1972 that The Great Terror had “closed the debate” about Stalinism. …

 

 

 

And to start off our weekend, late night humor from Andrew Malcolm.

Meyers: The White House opened a Twitter account to answer questions about Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran. Finally using Twitter for what it was designed to do: Explain complex, international nuclear agreements involving several nations.

Fallon: You know that Minnesota dentist who shot a famous lion named Cecil. He’s so evil Donald Trump is considering him as a running mate.

Conan: The Trump International Golf Course in Puerto Rico has filed for bankruptcy. This may be because of Trump’s rule, “No Puerto Ricans on my Puerto Rican golf course.”

August 5, 2015

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Craig Pirrong at Streetwise Professor posts on EPA’s new CO2 rules.

Acting under the aegis of its most malign agency, the EPA, in its unbending effort to hamstring the US economy, the Obama administration today released its long dreaded CO2 rule. The Rule mandates a 32 percent decrease in CO2 emissions by 2030. This outcome will be achieved by a dramatic reduction in the use of coal powered generation, and its replacement by renewables.

The administration touts its generosity by pointing out that compliance with the Rule has been extended by 2 years.

Great. We get screwed in 7 years, instead of just 5. Gee. Thanks. How thoughtful. You really shouldn’t have.

The Rule is tarted up with a cost-benefit analysis which purports to show massive benefits and modest costs. The benefit is in the form of improved health, in particular through the reduction in respiratory ailments.

But every step of this analysis is literally incredible. Consider the steps. First is an estimate of how the regulation affects climate. The second is an estimate of how climate affects health. The third is an estimate of the value of these health benefits. None of these calculations is remotely plausible, or even is it plausible that they can be made realistically, given the incredible complexity of climate and health.

And note the bait and switch here. The Rule is touted as a solution to the Phenomenon Once Known As Global Warming. But the Rule itself admits that the effect on temperature will be point zero one eight degrees centigrade by 2100. This is effectively zero, meaning that the “Climate Change” benefit of the Rule is zero.

The health benefits come from reductions in particulates from coal generating plants. So why not regulate particulates specifically?

This all points out that cost benefit analysis for large federal rules is basically Kabuki theater. …

… This new Rule is a piece with the last 6 plus years of grotesquely inefficient legislation and regulations. Frankendodd. Obamacare. Net Neutrality. Each of these add huge amounts of new weight that the Atlas of the American economy must bear. An economy subjected to such burdens will survive, but it will not thrive. The EPA’s new Rule will provide no meaningful benefit, and any benefits that it does generate will be gained at excessive cost. But that is the Obama way. That is the leftist way.

 

 

Betsy McCaughey  calls it “climate hubris.”

This week President Obama is hailing his Clean Power Plan as “the single most important step America has ever taken in the fight against global climate change.” Obama is posing as the environment’s savior, just as he did in 2008, when he promised his presidency would mark “the moment when … the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.” Seven years later, that messianic legacy is in doubt. Obama’s Clean Power Plan has never had legislative support, even when his own party controlled both houses of Congress. Now he’s trying to impose it without Congress, an audacious ploy his old Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe condemns as “burning the Constitution.”

As his presidency wanes, Obama is desperately burnishing his eco-credentials with environmental zealots like Pope Francis and the leftists at the U.N. and in the European Union. But here at home, his plan would be a disaster economically, which explains its failure in Congress. Hillary Clinton is pledging to support the plan, while Republicans vying for their party’s presidential nomination are vowing to oppose it. The Clean Power Plan will be a fiercely debated issue in coal-consuming swing states like Ohio, Illinois, and Pennsylvania — where the race for the White House is usually decided. …

 

 

WSJ Editors call it a ”Climate-Change Putsch” and says it’s up to the states to push back.  

… When the EPA rule does arrive before the Justices, maybe they’ll rethink their doctrine of “Chevron deference,” in which the judiciary hands the bureaucracy broad leeway to interpret ambiguous laws. An agency using a 38-year-old provision as pretext for the cap-and-tax plan that a Democratic Congress rejected in 2010 and couldn’t get 50 Senate votes now is the all-time nadir of administrative “interpretation.”

Meantime, states can help the resistance by refusing to participate. The Clean Air Act is a creature of cooperative federalism, and Governors have no obligation to craft a compliance plan. The feds will try to enforce a fallback, but they can’t commandeer the states, and they lack the money, personnel and bandwidth to overcome a broad boycott. Let’s see how much “clean power” the EPA really has.

The states have good reason to avoid collaborating in a scheme that will result in higher prices for consumers and business as the EPA mandates are passed down the energy chain. The plan also endangers electric reliability, and the strains to the grid could lead to brownouts or worse. The EPA added a reliability “safety valve” in the final rule as a concession that these risks are real, but this offers little protection in practice.

This plan is essentially a tax on the livelihood of every American, which makes it all the more extraordinary that it is essentially one man’s order. Mr. Obama’s argument is that climate change is too important to abide by relics like the rule of law or self-government. It is an important test of the American political system to prove that he is wrong.

 

 

According to Investor Business Daily’s editors the costs for new EPA regs will fall heavily on GOP states.

When candidate Barack Obama boasted back in 2008 that his radical climate change policies would “bankrupt” coal-fired power plants, he was for once telling the wretched truth.

On Monday Mr. Obama accelerated the timetable in his war on coal, with new EPA regulations to reduce carbon emissions from power plants by 32% below 2005 levels by 2030. The White House openly admits that the goal is to use much less coal and force utilities to consume far costlier and less reliable “renewable” electric power.

Whether these feel-good regulations imposed on America’s domestic industries will impact global carbon emissions and climate change appears highly doubtful, given the massive increase in the use of coal and other fossil fuels in nations like China and India.

Yet the costs of these new rules for highly suspect benefits are gigantic. The Heritage Foundation, for example, estimates about 500,000 lost jobs, close to $100 billion a year in lost output (about half a percentage point of GDP), and more than $1,000 a year in higher costs to families. In other words, all pain, no gain.

But the dirty little secret here is that these costs aren’t uniform across the country. Not even close.

It turns out coal-using and producing states are predominantly Republican red states. Meanwhile, the more Democratic a state is, the less the cost of the new coal rules to local rate payers and taxpayers.

The top seven states — those getting at least 70% of electric power from coal — are all solidly red states. But states ruled by Democrats — Rhode Island, Vermont, Oregon, California, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut — get away practically unfazed. …

 

And the cartoonists continue to enjoy Donald Trump.

August 4, 2015

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A loyal reader asked for some good news. Discovery.com has the first piece. Seems one disgusting American swamp filled with pestilence, is sinking and someday will disappear. We allude to Washington, DC. 

Twelve feet of sea-level rise — right in the middle of several forecasts that report Antarctic glaciers are starting to collapse — would push water up to the steps of the Jefferson Memorial. A new study finds the region will also sink 6 inches, due to natural forces, in the next 100 years.

Washington has its fair share of problems. Summer humidity can be intolerable. The traffic is maddening. And it’s just crawling with mosquitoes and politicians. Now we can add “it’s sinking” to this unfortunate list. …

 

 

More good news, this time from Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit. In his USA Today column this week he compliments the administration for the stance they have taken on occupational licensing.

Last week, I wrote in these pages about how politicians use regulation and licensing to protect their supporters from competition at the expense of the public welfare.

A few days later, the White House essentially endorsed this point with a new report on how occupational licensing hurts the economy, and in particular the working poor. This isn’t a new point, of course. Libertarians (like me) have been making it for decades, and the Institute For Justice, a libertarian public-interest law firm, has been suing on behalf of licensing’s victims for many years. But it’s one thing for libertarian economists and lawyers to argue for a position, and it’s another for it to be endorsed by a Democratic White House.

The White House report, entitled Occupational Licensing: A Framework for Policymakers, raises some important points. First, “more than one-quarter of U.S. workers now require a license to do their jobs, with most of these workers licensed by the states. The share of workers licensed at the state level has risen fivefold since the 1950s.” Where a license used to be required only for unusual jobs, now licensing requirements take up a major part of the employment sphere — and not just for physicians, but also for florists or funeral attendants. …

 

 

NY Times brings more good news with a well reasoned and written article on “The Myth of Big Bad Gluten.”

AS many as one in three Americans tries to avoid gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Gluten-free menus, gluten-free labels and gluten-free guests at summer dinners have proliferated.

Some of the anti-glutenists argue that we haven’t eaten wheat for long enough to adapt to it as a species. Agriculture began just 12,000 years ago, not enough time for our bodies, which evolved over millions of years, primarily in Africa, to adjust. According to this theory, we’re intrinsically hunter-gatherers, not bread-eaters. If exposed to gluten, some of us will develop celiac disease or gluten intolerance, or we’ll simply feel lousy.

Most of these assertions, however, are contradicted by significant evidence, and distract us from our actual problem: an immune system that has become overly sensitive.

Wheat was first domesticated in southeastern Anatolia perhaps 11,000 years ago. (An archaeological site in Israel, called Ohalo II, indicates that people have eaten wild grains, like barley and wheat, for much longer — about 23,000 years.)

Is this enough time to adapt? To answer that question, consider how some populations have adapted to milk consumption. We can digest lactose, a sugar in milk, as infants, but many stop producing the enzyme that breaks it down — called lactase — in adulthood. For these “lactose intolerant” people, drinking milk can cause bloating and diarrhea. To cope, milk-drinking populations have evolved a trait called “lactase persistence”: the lactase gene stays active into adulthood, allowing them to digest milk.

Milk-producing animals were first domesticated about the same time as wheat in the Middle East. As the custom of dairying spread, so did lactase persistence. What surprises scientists today, though, is just how recently, and how completely, that trait has spread in some populations. Few Scandinavian hunter-gatherers living 5,400 years ago had lactase persistence genes, for example. Today, most Scandinavians do.

Here’s the lesson: Adaptation to a new food stuff can occur quickly — in a few millenniums in this case. So if it happened with milk, why not with wheat? …

 

 

 

If you’ve been wondering how it is a dentist can spend $54,000 to bag a lion, Washington Post has answers.

At $54,000, the reported price of the trip that an American dentist took to Zimbabwe is nearly as shocking as the death of Cecil, the widely known and universally beloved lion he killed while he was there.

The neighborhood dentist seems far removed from the upper echelons of medicine, someone who comes in for a few minutes at the end of a cleaning to check your teeth and ask about your kids, occasionally doing a filling or root canal. No doubt these services are critical to patients and our overall health, but some might be surprised to learn that a dentist could afford to spend $50,000 on a hunting expedition.

It turns out, however, that dentists are quite well paid. According to official government statistics, the median dentist in the U.S. in 2012 earned $149,310 per year. But that median figure obscures variation around the country and among dentists with different specialties. In some high-priced cities, dentists make a lot of money with non-medical, cosmetic procedures from teeth whitening to botox. And according to the American Dental Association, the average dental specialist earned $283,900 in 2013.

Dentists in some places are so well compensated that they earn more than the average doctor. According to a 2012 report in The Journal of the American Medical Association, the average hourly wage of a dentist in America is $69.60 vs. $67.30 for a physician. As recently as 1996, dentists were making less than doctors. Meanwhile, the average general dental practitioner took in $181,000 in 2013, according to the dental association, compared to $175,000 for a family doctor, according to WebMD Medscape’s annual compensation report. …

 

 

 

And if you’ve been wondering how the Mexican Sinaloa cartel digs mile long tunnels, The New Yorker has answers.

At 8:52 P.M. on July 11th, Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the drug kingpin known as El Chapo, sat on the bed of his cell in Altiplano, Mexico’s only super-maximum-security prison. Surveillance footage appears to show a small screen glowing on a table nearby—inmates are not allowed cell phones, but this rule is not always enforced. Guzmán changed his shoes, walked to a shower area in the corner of the cell, and knelt behind a waist-high concrete partition, out of view of security cameras. Six seconds later, he was gone.

A rough-edged opening, about twenty inches square, had been cut into the floor. According to Mexico’s national-security commissioner, Guzmán climbed into the hole and down a ladder, entering a 4,921-foot-long tunnel. Fluorescent lights hung from a ceiling-mounted PVC pipe, which also brought fresh air into the passageway. Metal tracks had been bolted to the ground, allowing an ad-hoc vehicle—a railcar rigged to the frame of a small motorcycle—to be driven from one end of the tunnel to the other. The gray stone walls, about thirty inches apart, were scored with jagged marks made by electric spades; Guzmán’s shoulders probably brushed the walls as he passed.

The tunnel ended beneath a small cinder-block house in an open field. As Guzmán climbed a wooden ladder toward ground level, he passed the evidence of what seemed to be a months-long engineering project: a generator, which had powered the tools that workmen used to build the tunnel; a heavy-duty electric winch, to lower machinery into the pit; gallons of hydraulic fluid; coils of steel mesh.

Guzmán’s method of escape should have surprised no one. Last year, in Culiacán, he evaded Mexican marines by disappearing into a network of subterranean passageways connecting seven houses. He did not invent smuggling tunnels—bank robbers, rumrunners, and guerrillas had used them for decades—but his criminal enterprise, the Sinaloa drug cartel, built the first cross-border narcotúnel, in 1989. Since then, Sinaloa has refined the art of underground construction and has used tunnels more effectively than any criminal group in history.

In the past quarter century, officials have discovered a hundred and eighty-one illicit passages under the U.S.-Mexico border. Most have been short, narrow “gopher holes” just big enough for a person to crawl through. Sinaloa specializes instead in infrastructural marvels that federal agents call supertunnels. Agents estimate that a single supertunnel takes several months and more than a million dollars to build. Many include elevators, electric lights, ventilation ducts, and cleverly disguised entry and exit shafts. They can reach as deep as seventy feet, and they tend to be tall enough for an adult to walk or ride through. …

August 3, 2015

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Streetwise Professor with the latest example how our country has become a treacherous ally.

Last week the administration breathlessly announced that it had secured Turkey’s participation in the anti-ISIS campaign. This would entail Turkish airstrikes against ISIS positions, and Turkey granting the US use of Incirlik and other airbases for strike and drone aircraft. The straw that supposedly broke the camel’s back was an ISIS suicide bombing of a Kurdish protest on the Turkey-Syria border (by people wanting to cross to Kobane to help in reconstruction) and the subsequent killing of two Turkish policemen by Kurds who blamed Turkey for the bombing.

With great fanfare, Turkey launched an airstrike against ISIS. And then it has spent the last week bombing the snot out of Kurdish PKK positions in Iraq. If Turkey has engaged in further attacks against ISIS, I haven’t seen it reported, whereas there Turkey has attacked Kurdish positions on a daily basis. Nor do I believe that an extensive campaign would be possible without close coordination between the US and Turkey to avoid fratricide, mid-air collisions, etc., if their forces are operating in the same airspace against the same targets. And as I discuss below, it is unlikely such coordination is occurring.

In sum, under the pretext of attacking ISIS Turkey is attacking its real enemy, the Kurds, who happen to be the only effective ground force against ISIS, and who in addition to pushing them out of Kobane have been taking territory from ISIS and pushing it back towards Raqqa. Indeed, the Kurds have pushed ISIS away from virtually all of the Syria-Turkey border. But in addition to inflicting damage on the Kurds, the Turkish attacks will also no doubt divert Kurdish resources into a renewed war against Turkey, thereby further diminishing pressure on ISIS.

Put differently, the allegedly anti-ISIS Turkish campaign is objectively pro-ISIS. …

 

 

Caroline Glick at the Jerusalem Post with more on the Turk open season on the Kurds. She also has other examples of this administration’s foreign policy mistakes.

… Two years ago, in August 2013, the world held its breath awaiting US action in Syria. That month, after prolonged equivocation amidst mountains of evidence, the Obama administration was forced to acknowledge that Iran’s Syrian puppet Bashar Assad had crossed Obama’s self-declared redline and used chemical weapons against regime opponents, including civilians.

US forces assembled for battle. Everything looked ready to go, until just hours before US jets were scheduled to begin bombing regime targets, Obama canceled the operation. In so doing, he lost all deterrent power against Iran. He also lost all strategic credibility among America’s regional allies.

To save face, Obama agreed to a Russian proposal to have international monitors remove Syria’s chemical weapons from the country.

Last summer, the administration proudly announced that the mission had been completed.

UN chemical weapons monitors had removed Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal from the country, they proclaimed. It didn’t matter to either Obama or Secretary of State John Kerry that by that point Assad had resumed chemical assaults with chlorine-based bombs. Chlorine bombs weren’t chemical weapons, the Americans idiotically proclaimed.

Then last week, the lie fell apart. The Wall Street Journal reported that according to US intelligence agencies, Assad not surrendered his chemical arsenal.

Rather, he hid much of his chemical weaponry from the UN inspectors. He had even managed to retain the capacity to make chemical weapons – like chlorine-based bombs – after agreeing to part with his chemical arsenal.

Assad was able to cheat, because just as the administration’s nuclear deal with the Iranians gives Iran control over which nuclear sites will be open to UN inspectors, and which will be off limits, so the chemical deal gave Assad control over what the inspectors would and would not be allowed to see. So, they saw only what he showed them. …

 

 

 

Remember Pickerhead’s Iron Rule of Government is government always screws up. When it tries to solve a problem with laws, those laws always make the problem worse. Stephen Moore writes on the Dodd-Frank law.

You might call Vernon Hill a reverse Paul Revere. Most Americans like to believe that the U.S. is still a land of opportunity, the place where anyone can start a business and make a profit. But Mr. Hill issues a warning that rings loud and clear: The British—and others—are more inviting than we are.

“The regulatory environment has become so onerous in America that it is now easier to start a business in England than in the U.S.,” Mr. Hill says—and he would know.

In 1973 and only 27 years old, Mr. Hill founded Commerce Bank with one branch in Marlton, N.J. The fledgling company focused on customer service and called itself “America’s most convenient bank.” By the time Mr. Hill left Commerce Bancorp 34 years later, only months before the company announced it would be bought by TD Bank for $8.5 billion, he had grown the business to some 460 branches, with 14,000 employees and combined deposits of about $40 billion.

Now he’s replicating that model in the United Kingdom with Metro Bank, which he founded in 2010. And Mr. Hill says there’s an ocean of difference between doing business in the overregulated U.S. and in the U.K. “When I went to Britain I thought the regulatory environment would be much worse,” he says. “It’s infinitely better there.”

The problem in the U.S. starts with towering federal regulations, such as the voluminous reporting and compliance rules in Dodd-Frank, the financial reform act that recently celebrated its fifth birthday. “Regulators are making it impossible for the medium and small banks to comply with the rules,” he says. “The burdens get so intense that it is destroying the small and medium-size banks in America.”

The result is that Dodd-Frank, a law intended to take on the systemic risk of “too-big-to-fail” banks, is multiplying the problem. “The big banks that are too big to fail are bigger now than ever, but the regulations have trickled down to the smaller banks that didn’t cause the financial crisis” Mr. Hill says. As a result, community banks are disappearing. “When I started my first bank in the 1970s there were 24,000 banks in America,” he says. “There are now 7,000 banks. It may soon be 500 or even fewer.” …

 

 

August 2, 2015

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We start with the third and final part of Salon’s interview with Camille Paglia. Turns out she thinks highly of our favorite – Scott Walker. Here she is talking about the ways the Clintons have been a disaster for the Dems.

… First of all, when we look at the abundance of candidates who have put themselves forward on the GOP side, compared to the complete paralysis of the Democratic party by the Clinton machine, I think you have to be worried about the future of the Democratic party. Young feminists are asking why there hasn’t been a woman president and automatically blaming it on male sexism.  But there are plenty of women Democratic politicians who are too scared to put themselves forward as candidates because of the Clinton machine. There’s something seriously wrong here with Democratic thinking. You either believe in the country, you believe in your party, or you don’t!

Given the problems facing the nation, this passive waiting for your turn is simply unacceptable.  The Democrats have plenty of solid, capable women politicians who are just too timid to challenge the party establishment.  Well, excuse me, that proves they don’t deserve to be president!  You sure won’t be able to deal with ISIS if you can’t deal with Debbie Wasserman Schultz!  The paucity of declared Democratic presidential candidates is a major embarrassment to the party.  Look at that herd of eager-beaver competitive guys on the Republican side–overflowing with energy and ambition. There’s even a woman, Carly Fiorina, who has no political experience and therefore no chance of winning, but she is bravely putting herself forward and speaking out.  And she has impressively informed herself about international politics, which is a No. 1 requirement for any woman presidential candidate. I said in a recent op-ed for Time that women must take responsibility for mastering more than the usual social welfare issues. Women politicians have to develop themselves beyond the caretaking side of the spectrum. All this talk about the lack of women engineers and how that’s somehow evidence of sexism–oh, really?  It’s mostly a self-selecting process, as proved by the way that the overwhelming majority of women politicians around the world actually behave. What do they instantly gravitate towards?  Social welfare, caretaking, the environment.  They ignore military history and strategic geopolitics.

I have constantly said that Senator Dianne Feinstein should have been the leading woman presidential candidate for the Democratic party long ago. Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi is a very deft and clever behind-the-scenes legislator and dealmaker, a skill she acquired from her political family–her father and brother were mayors of Baltimore. Both of these women, to me, are far better politicians than Hillary Clinton. Hillary has accomplished nothing substantial in her life. She’s been pushed along, coasting on her husband’s coattails, and every job she’s been given fizzled out into time-serving or overt disaster. …

 

… What a colossal tactical error American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten (a longtime Clinton friend and donor) made several weeks ago in unilaterally declaring her union’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton right in the middle of the Bernie Sanders surge. Probably for the first time ever, American liberals woke up to the corrupt practices that have become way too common in the political maneuverings of the big unions. The point here is that Scott Walker, in his defeat of the public sector unions, drew the roadmap for struggling municipal and state governments everywhere to balance their budgets, as he did in Wisconsin.  Because who ends up suffering the most? It’s the kids.  All that money outrageously pouring into inflated pension plans has been gutting public education and community arts programs.

Exactly how have the teachers unions improved the quality of education in our big cities?  Look at the dilapidated public schools in Philadelphia or in many other cities run by Democrats.  The rigid and antiquated seniority system imposed by the teachers unions has been a disaster–”last hired, first fired.”  So many young and vital teachers have been terminated during budget cuts–the entire future of the profession.  The unions value seniority over quality, and it’s inner-city children who have paid the price.

In my opinion, Scott Walker still lacks seasoning, presidential temper, and a working knowledge of international affairs.  But if Democrats try to use the union issue to take him down, they’re simply empowering him–and we’re going to end up with President Walker. …

 

… If Biden enters, I’m not counting him out. He’s going to suck up a lot of Hillary’s support. I’ve never taken Biden too seriously–he always seemed like a lightweight.  But the death of his son Beau, a nice guy with military experience who seemed on track for the presidency, has given Biden more gravitas than he ever had before.  The way he handled himself at Beau’s funeral–standing for five hours, personally greeting all callers. Biden comes in as someone who doesn’t have enemies and who knows the departments of government and international affairs.  He handles himself well in debates–even though Sarah Palin defeated him!

Biden doesn’t have any of Hillary’s negatives.  Why do we want another divisive, polarizing figure in the White House? Who wants a president that half the country already hates? Does that make any sense? At a time when the U.S. has to negotiate with hostile or untrustworthy foreign states, you’d think we would want a president who has the support and good will of the nation.  People are tired of the polarization and looking for a uniter!

  

 

Roger Simon has added a feature to his Diary of A Mad Voter – The Daily Trump.

… DATELINE MANHATTAN (THE SNOBBY PART): Rape! Rape! Clueless Daily Bleat reporter Tim Mak accuses Trump of “violating” wife Ivana before Mak was born as scribe humiliates self on The Kelly File, proving (TRIGGER WARNING!) not all Asians are smart. Ivana joins Cuban in backing Trump. Rolling Stone’s Jann Wenner  throws jealous fit, wants phony rape beat back. (Notice we resisted saying “Trumped up,” but we may use it later.)

DATELINE MANHATTAN (THE EVEN SNOBBIER PART):  John Cassidy of The New Yorker  (you know, the mag you used to subscribe to when James Thurber was alive) warns that Donald Trump’s Troubles Are Just Beginning.  Cassidy claims Trump has bad judgement in lawyers.  Maybe he should hire Bill Clinton… oh, wait.

DATELINE NORTH POLE:  Donald Trump told Sarah Palin’s Mama Grizzly Radio that Palin should be part of a Trump administration.  ”She’s really a special person and I think people know that,” The Donald said to host Kevin Scholla.  No word on what cabinet position he had in mind. …

 

 

 

Myron Magnet writes on the city de Blasio has wrought.

… Take a walk around the Grand Hyatt and neighboring Grand Central Terminal these days. It’s often like stepping out of H.G. Wells’s time machine straight back into the 1970s or 1980s. Vanderbilt Avenue, in particular, is becoming once again the urinal of the universe, with one block wall-to-wall “bum stands,” as my son, with childhood inventiveness, used to call them: the stolen supermarket shopping cart, the garbage bag full of scavenged cans and bottles for redemption, the prone figure wrapped mummy-like in a filthy blanket. The heart sinks. It took so much effort by so many people to clear up the human wreckage that so many years of liberal “compassion” had created in a dying New York. And to see it all—I can’t put it any better than the esteemed New York Post—“pissed away” by a mayor not smart or perceptive enough to have learned one thing from the experience of the last 20 years, since his own personal demons have left him stuck in the politics of the 1950s and 1960s, is tragic. It is so hard to build; so easy to destroy.

Listen, Mayor: the first job of government is to keep the people safe in their homes and in the streets. If you can’t do that as a municipal chief executive, you are a flop. Equality is not the job of government, unless you are a Communist, in which case equality usually comes at the barrel of a gun or the end of a noose. And voters of New York, please learn this lesson too, despite your attachment to FDR and the New Deal or your seductive professor of race-class-and-gender studies at Brown or Wesleyan. New York needs a realistic mayor. We don’t have one.

  

 

On cue, CBS News in NY reports on a man bathing in the fountain at Columbus Circle. The city’s response will be to require 10,000 cops to undergo four days of training equipping them to handle emotionally disturbed citizens. They could start with de Blasio. 

It was a shocking scene at one of the city’s most visited landmarks.

CBS2 political reporter Marcia Kramer obtained exclusive images of what some call the latest public insult of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s New York City.

Pictures were snapped of a homeless man taking a bath in the fountain at Columbus Circle, a popular city landmark that is now the bathtub of a bum.

The man who took the photo called the incident simply appalling.

“This, for me, was the tipping point on quality of life. This man is actually lathering up with a bar of soap,” Ken Frydman said.

The homeless man also stores his toiletries under the benches near the fountain, Kramer reported. …

 

 

 

The poster child for blithering idiots in city government is Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, mayor of Baltimore. NY Post reports shootings, and the resulting deaths, are setting records. And, of course, they would since her policies have made policing impossible.

BALTIMORE — Baltimore reached a grim milestone on Friday, three months after riots erupted in response to the death of Freddie Gray in police custody: With 43 homicides in July, the city has seen more bloodshed in a single month than it has in 43 years.

The 43rd recorded homicide was Jermaine Miller, 18, who took a bullet to his head just before noon the day before.

With his death on Friday, this year’s total homicides reached 187, far outpacing the 119 killings by July’s end in 2014. Non-fatal shootings have soared to 366, compared to 200 by the same date last year. July’s total was the worst since the city recorded 45 killings in August 1972, according to the Baltimore Sun.

The seemingly Sisyphean task of containing the city’s violence prompted Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to fire Police Commissioner Anthony Batts on July 8.

“Too many continue to die on our streets,” Rawlings-Blake said then. “Families are tired of dealing with this pain, and so am I. Recent events have placed an intense focus on our police leadership, distracting many from what needs to be our main focus: the fight against crime.”

But the killings have not abated under Interim Commissioner Kevin Davis since then. …

  

 

Kevin Williamson writes on the minimum wage scam.

… The worst kind of welfare state is the welfare state that is ashamed of itself and therefore feels obliged to pretend to be something it isn’t. Instead of forthrightly taxing individuals and businesses and converting that revenue to welfare benefits in an honest and transparent way, covert welfare statists usually attempt to disguise welfare payments as wages. Artificial wage increases imposed by law perform the same function as ordinary welfare benefits — transferring income from politically disfavored groups to politically favored groups — but the revenue doesn’t show up on the government ledger as taxes and the outlays don’t show up as spending. Everybody in government gets the opportunity to engage in a little delicious moral preening about how they’re doing the right thing for the hardworking people of wherever while maintaining fiscal discipline, as if the underlying facts of the policy — “Patron X shall give Client Y at least Z amount of money” — weren’t fundamentally identical to those in a transparent welfare state.

Which is to say, laws mandating wages and benefits beyond market prices are political money laundering for unpopular welfare payments. They work brilliantly: Americans have a generally low opinion of welfare programs, but large majorities of us — including majorities of Republicans — support raising the minimum wage.

The problem, as coddled French dairymen and millions of unemployed Americans ought to know, is that a wage is a price — the price of a particular quantity of labor — and when prices go up, demand goes down. Politicians may break all sorts of laws, but they cannot break the law of supply and demand. …